Mr. Sizwe Nxasana: Chairman of the NECT Board
Mr. Brian Figaji: Trustee
Mr. Nkosana Dolopi: Trustee
Ms. Futhi Mtoba: Trustee
Mr. Basil Manuel: Trustee
Mr. Mathanzima Mweli: Trustee
Mr. James Motlatsi: Patron
Mr. Bobby Godsell: Patron
Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Patron
Mr. Godwin Khosa: CEO
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me pleasure to address you on this occasion namely, the five year milestone of collaboration between Government and the social partners. It all began with the meeting of great minds following the conclusion of the National Education Leadership Dialogue held in December 2012. It was there where consensus was reached on the need to develop an Education Collaboration Framework (ECF) with the aim of assisting the Department of Basic Education to improve education in South Africa.
Hardly a year later, we launched the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) amid aplomb and fanfare. When we launched the NECT on the 16th July 2013 at the Presidential Guesthouse, Pretoria, it was arguably the most ambitious attempt yet to create unity of purpose on education reform and development among diverse – but critically important – stakeholders.
We also envisaged it as an instrument for coordinating funding for education and directing this in a manner that will achieve greater returns on investment.
Five years later, the NECT has come of age. Over a billion rands in investment has been mobilised over the last five years. This makes the NECT to be amongst the elites in the multi-stakeholder collaboration trust in South Africa.
Programme Director, this investment is significant considering the prevailing fiscal climate. While spending on the combined national and provincial basic education (or consolidated basic education) budget for school children remains at 17 per cent of total government expenditure, and is comparable to most of our peers, but there are valid concerns about the lack of growth in education expenditures over the medium term. Unicef has sounded a warning that we must protect spending on priority programmes such as early childhood education, the national school nutrition programme, the no-fee school allocation, support for public special school education, and infrastructure spending in the most disadvantaged areas. Therefore, in the next five years, we, collectively have a responsibility to increase non-state funding in the sector.
This is so that in the medium-term expenditure period and outer years, we do not regress in the acceleration of progress in the thematic areas of this collaboration. These thematic areas are as follows:
- Professionalisation of teaching,
- Promotion of courageous and effective Leadership
- Improvement of the capacity of the state,
- Increased resourcing of schools and classrooms,
- Improved community and parent involvement, and
- Improved learner welfare
As you may recall, while the six themes were agreed as the focus areas of the collaboration nationally, the NECT further crafted six educational programmes under which it designed programmes for direct implementation by the NECT. Most of these programmes were initiated during 2014, after the necessary systems and processes were set up and resources confirmed.
Programme Director, the beauty of the NECT work is that it is evidence based and data driven. The NECT’s five years of existence and four and half years of programme implementation have seen the education collaboration achieve the following:
- Reach 61.5% of the South African schooling system to improve the quantity and quality of teaching and learning;
- Mobilisation of over R1 billion for education improvement.
- Mobilise over 5 500 South Africans to carryout activities geared towards promoting the National Development Plan (NDP),
- Involve over 54 organisations in the delivery these activities
- Facilitate more than 4 000 South Africans in 27 NDP-related dialogues and
- Initiated partnership programmes, starting with SADTU and NAPTOSA
The Department has seen an impact in the contribution made by the NECT. There are many initiatives delivered through the NECT but just to mention a few. The tool designed to monitor curriculum coverage in schools. Training of teachers in content and reporting on curriculum covered has improved; this initiative has promoted time on task. The role played by the NECT in promoting reading in the GET Band. The assistance received in managing the delivery of Teacher Diagnostic Assessments is appreciated.
The NECT and the DBE have developed a learner empowerment programme consisting of 12 mini-modules which seeks to empower learners to be better leaders, thus ensuring, amongst others, to take responsibility for their own learning. The programme has been rolled out in 120 pilot schools, wherein 2 400 learner leaders and 120 teacher programme coordinators were trained. The mini-modules on ''bullying in school” for learner leaders and "discipline at home" for parents assists in improving school safety. The learner empowerment programme was scaled in 2017.
To this end, the picture of the basic education is beginning to change for the better. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 2018 Report, upper secondary education is now widespread in South Africa. The OECD put the figure at 84% of children between 5 and 14 years old were enrolled in education so far.
Overall, less than 40% of 5-year-olds are enrolled in school, rising to 75% among 6-year-olds, an age at which enrolment is near universal in almost all OECD and partner countries (98%).
Our next bugbear is to recalibrate the first two years of pre-schooling.
I am happy to report that the provision of Early Childhood Learning is now a function of the Department of Basic Education. As we know in government, budget follows the function. At the recent DBE Management retreat, it was agreed that a Ministerial Task Team must be assembled to determine the curriculum, size, shape, and texture of the ECD sector, which, we consider it to be the next frontier in improving learner outcomes. It is now universally accepted that any delayed enrolment and the lack of availability of Early Childhood Education Centres has consequences for the rest of the education system.
In its latest report, the OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said affordable and high quality early childhood education and care –– can improve children’s cognitive abilities and socio-emotional development while also helping to reduce poverty and improve social mobility. The OECD study found that children who attend at least two years of Early Childhood Development perform around 15 points higher on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) science test after accounting for socioeconomic status.
At the top end, the basic education sector is a feeder to the higher education system.
Research shows that here in South Africa, we have the highest success rate for our graduates in respect of employment prospects. The OECD 2018 Report found that tertiary education pays off on the labour market in South Africa, as the employment rate for adults with a tertiary education was 85% in 2017, similar to the OECD average.
Overall, education also narrows the gender gap. Research shows that the gender gap in employment rates narrows with educational attainment: tertiary-educated young women in South Africa benefit from an 81% employment rate, only 5 percentage points below the employment rate for tertiary-educated young men.
Despite this glowing picture painted by the OECD, we have a problem as a nation as almost half (48%) of 20-24 year-olds in South Africa were neither employed nor in education or training (NEET) in 2017, by far the highest rate across all countries with available data. For our part as basic education sector, we have to get our ducks in a row so that we don’t contribute to the NEETs pool. With your support, skills and determination to make our education system work, I have no doubt that we will succeed.
In conclusion, let me thank the founding members who have stayed the full course with us. On behalf of the people of South Africa, I commend the work done so far. I am certain that more corporate players and social activists are going to join us as we lay the firm foundation for the next big push in the basic education sector’s delivery, policy implementation and improved learner outcomes. Indeed, Together, we are Moving South Africa Forward.