Premier C. Mathabatha
MEC for Education, Limpopo Mr. Maaria Kgetjepe
MEC for Education, Free State Mr. Tate Makgoe
MEC for Education, Gauteng Mr. Panyaza Lesufi
TTF Foundation, Dr. Tim Tebeila
TTF Foundation, Prof MR Kgaphola
Ladies and Gentlemen
I thank the organizers for kindly inviting me to this important 1st Africa Education Indaba. It gives me an immense pleasure to have been asked to deliver this address. This conference is an important 'sounding board' for educational professionals as it brings together academics, practitioners, and policy makers to deliberate on improving learner outcomes. I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to all attendees, organisers as well as academics and political leadership for making the time for this significant gathering. We must agree as a nation, that basic education is indeed at the heart of building a South African nation for a better and prosperous future.
The challenges facing South Africa’s basic education system are a matter of public records. The biggest problem that the basic education in this country faces can be understood through the lens of former President Thabo Mbeki’s two nation’s theory. Mbeki said one of these nations is white, relatively prosperous, regardless of gender or geographic dispersal. It has ready access to a developed economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure. The second, he argued is a larger nation of South Africa is black and poor, with the worst affected being women in the rural areas, the black rural population in general and the disabled.
Similarly, our basic education system suffers from the curse of the inequality duality. One is well developed and other less so. Unfortunately, the least developed economy has an imprint of apartheid – black. Almost a quarter of a century since the end of apartheid, persistent educational inequality – inadequately trained teachers, poor infrastructure, lack of educational materials, poor support and management, unmotivated learners and low educational outcomes - has resulted in what some education specialists label a vicious schooling cycle. Interestingly the same system, according to researchers is characterised by well-educated, well-trained and motivated teachers, appropriate infrastructure and materials, as well as the support of management and education departments.
Provinces like this one, (Limpopo), the Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal are often cited as examples of this dual system. They represent the imprint of apartheid economies – black and poorly developed. One research report concluded that the, “more resilient legacy from the past has been the low quality of education within the historically disadvantaged parts of the school system.” As an imprint of apartheid, these provinces are beset by lack basic infrastructure, uneven distribution of textbooks, and poor quality leadership at school level. This state of affairs leads to poor educational outcomes.
These provinces affect the national picture (pass rate) negatively as these three provinces account for over 50 percent of matric candidates year after year.
According to SECTION27, in 2016, the Limpopo Education had a shortage of nearly 41,000 toilets, of which nearly 34,000 are pit latrines that still need to be replaced. A shortage of over 6,000 classrooms plus a further 4,600 grade R classrooms was recorded. Among these are schools that have been devastated infrastructural by storms, roofs that were blown off by the wind years ago and have not yet been replaced, broken windows and cracked floors. These infrastructural challenges are compounded by a high number of vacant teaching posts. As at September, 2017, Limpopo had almost 5,000 teacher vacancies. These are the problems that require political leadership. Nonetheless, I must commend Limpopo Education Department for rooting out unqualified and underqualified teachers within the system.
Another epidemic is teacher absence. A report released by the Human Sciences Research Council titled The Health of Educators depicts that one-third of teachers reported absent during 2014. The report also found that 10% of teachers are absent daily at most South African public schools, with funerals contributing towards the absenteeism, while sick leave accounts for 66%.
Compounding the crisis is the escalation in violent protest that negatively affects education in this province. The bugbear remains Vuwani and Malamulele. According to Municipal IQ,, a specialised local government data and intelligence organisation collects data on service delivery protests staged against municipalities shows service delivery protests as of the end of June 2018, with the second quarter of 2018 showing a new record for protests measured by quarter – 101 protests between April and June, against a previous record for the second quarter of 2017 (73). Unfortunately, these service delivery protests are a moving target as data shows that in the first half of the year, the worst affected provinces were actually the Eastern Cape, followed by Gauteng, with a noticeable uptick in the Western Cape and Free State.
Programme Director, this conference must reflect on the service delivery protests that turn violent and resulting in the malicious damage to school infrastructure. As a country, we need some soul searching. It makes absolutely no sense that people unhappy about water service delivery will in turn burn down a school.
Hot on the heels of this epidemic is of course the quality of teachers we have in the system. South African teachers are widely reported to have poor subject matter expertise. Venkat and Spaull, in their analysis of SACMEQ 2007 maths teacher test scores, found that 79% of Grade 6 maths teachers showed content knowledge levels below the Grade 6/7 band.
Furthermore, the report from the Ministerial Task Team that investigated allegations into the selling of posts by members of teachers unions and department officials found that there was undue influence by the SA Democratic Teachers Union in some schools. The report, published in May 2016, found that the “sale of teachers’ and principals’ jobs for cash, sex and ‘other favours’ is ‘widespread and underreported’.”
Unfortunately, these challenges adversely affect the most marginalised citizens in the country. A paper by Professor Brian Levy on the governance dynamics of four low-income schools, about 10km away from each other in the urban Eastern Cape, explores this dynamic, considering the effect of the interaction between external stakeholders and school-level governance on school performance.
We find that a strong school principal with support from the School Governing Body (SGB), who is committed to the educational mission of the school, and where absent, a committed SGB and community are instrumental in enforcing accountability and changing school outcomes, where state mechanisms fall short.
Some of the case study schools had fallen victim to poor performance, centred on the principal and teaching staff, an SGB that was influenced to make appointment decisions absent of the “best candidate for the job” requirements, high teacher and pupil absenteeism and crumbling infrastructure.
But two exceptions are striking. In both, participatory, school-level governance made the key difference. In the first of these, the institutional culture of the school was one where all stakeholders - teachers, the governing body, the extended community - felt included.
This inclusive culture provided a powerful platform for managing the recruitment of teachers in a way that assured a continuing commitment to the educational mission of the school.
This case of regulated institutional culture depends on strong leadership within the school itself. In its absence, reforms depend on developmental factors within the community and the SGB.
Generally, we have come to an evidence based conclusion that a decline in the quality of passes in Languages and Mathematics at the FET Band is as a result of weak learning foundations in the early grades. My appeal is for this conference to zoom in on the strategies to rebuild these strong learning foundations.
What is to be done?
Programme Director; we need to prepare our basic education system for the 4th Industrial Revolution. At a global level, we are doing so through a three-pronged approach, which consists of the revision to school curriculum design, including the:
(a) PLAY-based learning methodology for the Foundation Phase, Computer Application Technology, Information Technology, and the Three- Stream Curriculum Model;
(b) The provision of ICT resources to schools, including connectivity and devices through Operation Phakisa; and
(c) The integration of technology in teaching and learning (e-Learning) through Operation Phakisa.
Critical for us, is the integration of ICTs into all the levels of the education and training system, in order to improve the quality of teaching and learning. All stakeholders are aligning and delivering a consistent solution to all schools, to ensure that no school is left behind, because of its geopolitical location. Hence, this conference is critical in finding best implementation models and best practise on how to scale these initiatives.
In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, 2018 is a special year in our country as we celebrate the life and times of the late President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, affectionately known by his clan name Madiba, and Mama Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu otherwise known as Ma Sisulu.
Both Madiba and Ma Sisulu are our outstanding icons of the anti-apartheid struggle. Had these stalwarts lived, they would have turned 100 this year. Interestingly, they both had the best interests of children of this country in their hearts. They showed this through deeds not words. Therefore in honouring these giants, we must work together to improve our basic education system.
The only way we can advance and protect their legacy is to close the gap between the schools that work and schools that underperform.
Again, I thank you for your kind gesture to let me speak to you today. I am inviting and encouraging everyone present here to become an Ambassador of public schooling.
I thank you.