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Address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Global Action Week for Education (GAWE) held in Johannesburg, 24 April 2019

Programme Director

Chairperson and Leadership of all organisations

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Chairperson, 2019 is an important year for basic education. In the United Nations system, the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on Education will be under review at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF).

This year's High-Level Political Forum will happen at the head of States level at the same time as the UN General Assembly in September 2019.  

2019 is also a moment for the movement as it marks its 20th anniversary of the Global Action Week for Education.

After 20 years of existence, the campaign must ensure to remain relevant and to reinvent itself where needed, to fulfil its mission to defend the right to education for all.

In our country, we are on the verge of celebrating 25 years since the advent of democracy. It is a poignant moment for us as a nation to ponder whether we have realised the promise of freedom, a Better Life for all.

Nonetheless, as President Cyril Ramaphosa has said, we must celebrate the triumph of freedom over subjugation, the triumph of democracy over racial tyranny, and the triumph of hope over despair.

When it comes to basic education, we are at a critical point that demands stronger commitments of all partners to ensure the timely delivery of free quality education for all as set out in the Education 2030 agenda.

We must be mindful that children starting school in 2019 will complete their 12 years basic education by 2030.

It is an ideal moment to interrogate stakeholders on their commitment, and to assess if the fundamental human right to free inclusive quality public education for all will became a reality. 

In our country progress has been made. Chairperson, as the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), since the beginning of our Struggle for freedom; it was always about the fundamental human rights for all, the oppressor included.

We have never separated the yearning for equal education outside the idea of a legitimate State founded on the will of the people.

Hence, the 1996 Constitution enshrines basic education as an inalienable basic human right.

In terms of section 29 of the 1996 Constitution, it says: ‘Everyone has the right to a basic education, including adult basic education; [1] and to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible. [2]

These rights place a duty on the state to respect an individual’s right to education. It also imposes a positive obligation on the state to promote and provide education by putting in place and maintaining an education system that is responsive to the needs of the country.

Legal scholars and political pundits say the right to basic education, including adult basic education,

unlike other socio-economic rights in the Bill of Rights, is neither formulated as a right of access nor subject to internal qualifiers.

The right to basic education is immediately realizable, as confirmed by the Constitutional Court in the Juma Masjid Case: [4]

This means unlike other socio-economic rights where the state need only demonstrate that it has allocated resources rationally, the right to basic education must be prioritized regardless of the State’s other budgetary commitments.

Chairperson, we have delivered in this regard. Some 80 percent of our learners attend no fee schools, that’s a whooping over nine million children who are receiving free basic education.

We have abandoned the apartheid era financing model for basic education.

Fore-instance, in 1975/76, the apartheid regime spent R644 annually on each white pupil, R189 per Indian pupil, R139 on a coloured pupil, and only R42 on an African pupil.

Fast forward to the democratic dispensation, spending per learner is now equal across the population.

On average our spending per learner has reached to R16 435 by 2017, a substantial increase from R2 222 spent in 1994.

In real terms this means our spending per learner is currently hovering around 60% higher, after taking into account inflation, than it was in 1994.  

This Government spends more than R270 billion on average on basic education alone by 2018. That is between 4.7 and 4.9 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or an average of 17 percent of the consolidated Government budget.

As a result, by 2016, there were nearly 13 million scholars attending public ordinary schools in this country. We have truly opened the doors to learning as enjoined by the Freedom Charter.

As a nation we must do more to cleanse our land of the excesses of the apartheid regime.

Some of you won’t believe that in 1955, only 598 black Africans sat for their matric exams. These low numbers highlights the worst evils of the apartheid system.

As soon as the new dispensation was ushered the numbers of matric learners broke through the glass ceiling. By 2009, we reached 466 474 mark – an increase of over 78 000% since 1955.  

In 2018, a whopping 629 141 full time and 167 401 part time pupils sat for matric exams.  That’s a record breaking total of 796 542 learners.

The matric pass rate has also climbed substantially over the past 24 years from a low base of 53.4% in 1994 to the high of 78.2% in 2018.

Overall, according to Stats SA the number of individuals 15 years and older completing Grade 12 and higher education has been rising.

Between 1996 and 2016, the number of the population aged 15 years and older who completed matric increased from 3, 7 million in 1996 to 11, 6 million in 2016. This is almost a 211% increase over the 20-year period.

Over nine million learners receive nutritious meals every single school day.

We have over 2.4 million children accessing early childhood education in the last financial year alone.  

Hence we are convinced that we have established a firm foundation for a comprehensive ECD programme that is an integral part of the education system as it migrates to Basic Education.

We are ready to provide two years compulsory Early Childhood Education to all learners in our country.

Over the next six years, we will provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device.

We will start with those schools that have been historically most disadvantaged and are located in the poorest communities, including multi-grade, multiphase, farm and rural schools.

Already, 90% of textbooks in high enrolment subjects across all grades and all workbooks have been digitised.

In line with our Framework for Skills for a Changing World, we are expanding the training of both educators and learners to respond to emerging technologies including the internet of things, robotics and artificial intelligence.

Our pro-poor policies including social grants or social wage that supports over 33 percent of poor households. This has increased from R180-billion in 2005 to R567 billion in 2019 as the fight against poverty and inequality, intensifies.

This is despite a sluggish economy and constrained fiscal environment.

The impact of this investment in our people has yielded amazing results.

By 2017, more than 400 000 social grant beneficiaries wrote their matric examinations.

Of the 401 435 learners who passed matric, 234 707 received social grants, making it 59% of learners who passed Grade 12. This is indeed encouraging news as our people break the cycle of poverty.

Since 2007, thousands of new teachers have been produced. We have spent billions of rands on growing our own timber.

Fore-instance around 13,000 new teachers have entered the teaching profession, a third of whom were Funza Lushaka beneficiaries.

The 2017 School Monitoring Survey confirms that on average the number of filled teaching posts (primary and secondary schools combined) increased from 69% in 2011 to 78% in 2017.   

By our presence here today, we all bear testament to the progress we have made as a people notwithstanding our challenges.

As a country, we must roll up our sleeves and #Grow South Africa together. 

I thank you.

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Written By: Fisher Julie
Date Posted: 4/29/2019
Number of Views: 670

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