Teach SA Board of Directors and Executives
Learners and Parents
I am delighted and honoured to be invited to speak to you today at this auspicious occasion namely, the TeachSA Graduation Ceremony. From the onset I must say since today is a joyous occasion, a day of pomp and ceremony as it were, my address will therefore be short and sweet. Before, I forget congratulations to all our graduates. You have earned your stripes. Walk tall and never look back.
Programme Director; Teach South Africa represents a gold standard in terms of Government-Private sector collaboration. The success of our developmental state depends on the active involvement of social partners. Our approach to governance places strong emphasis on building a broad front for development that involves a strong relationship between government, labour, and business as well as civil society.
Programme Director; TeachSA has a simple vision: To improve learner performance in Mathematics, Science and English. It’s such a lofty ideal. The role you play is integral to the basic education ecosystem. In the work that you do, you fortify President Cyril Ramaphosa’s contention that success in this country must be as a result of effort alone. Not one’s skin colour, gender, creed and/or proximity to those who weird political power. You only attract the best talent in the country and place them in schools where there is a greatest need. In short, you guys are reproducing excellence in a true sense of the word. And, you are bullish about, as you say your mission is to provide excellent education irrespective of the learner’s socio-economic background.
In other words, you are an ally of the poor, downtrodden and marginalised.
To support the work you do at the institutional level, you will be pleased to know that we have finally completed the work on the Mathematics Teaching and Learning Framework. The Mathematics Framework’s key takeaway is an ideal of, ‘teaching of mathematics for understanding.’ This will help teachers in both basic and higher education to attend to the challenges associated with the teaching and learning of mathematics, so that learner outcomes are improved.
The Mathematics Framework supports the key activities of the Maths Science Technology (MST) Education Strategy (2019-2030). The broad outline of the strategy is to ensure that every classroom is a space where quality learning and teaching takes place. This should be evident through the delivery of relevant curriculum. The curriculum must be taught by competent and qualified teachers with the necessary resources to inspire learners with competencies for a changing world.
We have also recently launched the National Association of English Teachers of South Africa. This Association is so vital in that it will deal head-on with some of the biding constraints facing learners in our basic education system. As you know, the English language is in the majority of our schools, the Language of Learning and Teaching. It’s also a language of commerce and diplomacy worldwide.
In our country, English is the second most commonly spoken language outside the household (17, 6%) after isiZulu (24, 7%).
In case you didn’t know, you guys are involved in a nation building project at its very foundational level. You’re strengthening the foundations of our democracy. There is no greater threat to a modern State than an army of an illiterate youth. The fruits that the nation will reap will surely lessen the sources of unfreedom.
Programme Director; allow to me to digress and talk about the imminent threat to our freedom as South Africa celebrates 25 years since the end of apartheid.
In his seminal book, 'Development as Freedom' an eminent economist Amartya Sen says: "Development requires the removal of major sources of unfreedom: poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation. Low income is clearly one of the major causes of poverty…”
For South Africa, we removed tyranny in 1994. Today, we are confronted by poverty, poor economic opportunities, and systematic social deprivation. This is our modern version of unfreedom. At the source of it is the skills shortages and sluggish economy. Even our poverty index has colour and gender.
Poverty today bears an imprint of a black woman. So, today as these young people graduate, they are removing the chains of poverty and putting an end to the source of unfreedom. These are our ambassadors of the future.
Programme Director; we can only succeed as a country if we have the required skills to turbocharge our sluggish economy. Hence your mission as Teach South Africa, to support our country with required skills so as to achieve the magical 6% economic growth rate is commendable. We are very proud of you.
As the jobs market evolves, South Africa has an unenviable task of dealing head on with the poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation particularly amongst its young people. Naturally a youth bulge is considered as a dividend. But, there must be productive. So yes, our young people are both a curse and an opportunity. It is only an opportunity if we seize the challenge of making sure that every young person is educated, and skilled for the future industries. If we don’t invest in young people today, then social malaise will take root, and a political revolt akin to the Arab Spring will be inevitable. We have a responsibility as a country to avoid the lurch towards the political Armageddon.
To ameliorate the risks of political Armageddon, South Africa, has committed herself into building a developmental state through the National Development Plan. The developmental state we seek to build must efficiently guides national economic development. It must do so by mobilising the resources of society and directing them towards the realisation of common goals of reversing the scourge of poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation. The developmental state and its partners such as TeachSA shall place the needs of the poor and social issues such as health care, housing, basic education and a social safety net at the top of the national agenda. We realised early on that the State alone cannot succeed in this regard.
Thus, we have harnessed the productive capacity of our people in all sectors to work towards finding solutions to our causes of unfreedom.
In this regard, TeachSA is an antidote of removing major sources of unfreedom - poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation. Since 2009, you have touched the lives of over 71 000 learners, placing 566 Ambassadors in over 294 schools across the country.
Today, I feel a huge sense of pride and achievement right now to see all of you converged here to reap the benefits of your hard work and tenacity. This reminds me of the Chinese proverb that says: “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.”
It is commendable that in line with the objectives of the National Development Plan, that TeachSA plugs the gap with essential skills such as Mathematics, Science and English. We all agree that in order to remain relevant - the basic education sector must deal with the perennial learner underperformance in critical subjects. Our best bet is to improve Mathematics, Science and English learner performance in Grades 4 to 12.
Programme Director; we can’t afford complacency. We must take no solace in the fact that the phenomenon of skills shortage is not only a South African problem but a global challenge. Globally, research indicates that 50% of industries in developing countries are also facing skills shortage. This skills shortage has had negative impact and contributed to the chronic vacancies and poor productivity in most productive sectors of the various economies.
In conclusion, in recent years attention has shifted from concerns over having a sufficient number of teachers to a concern about having a sufficient number of quality teachers in specific subjects, Phase and geographical areas. Thus, recruiting as you do - fit-for-purpose - academically successful university students into teaching is a game changer. Our job as Government is to offer your graduates a favorable work environment and possibly retain them in the teaching profession for good. Congratulations to all our graduates. Welcome to the world of work!
I thank you.