Local Traditional Leaders
Local Mayor and Councillors present
Chairperson of the SGB and all Members
Senior Management of the Department of Education
Principal and SMT members
Parents and Pupils
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my singular honour and a privilege to be in the province of the Eastern Cape, a place I call my second home. This is my third visit in less than a month.
I am here yet again to officially open yet another state-of-the-art educational facility, namely the Mqakama High School, here in Port St. Johns.
As some of you already know, this province has a special place in my heart for many reasons.
But, today, I want us to ponder and recall the singular contribution of the son of this place, the legendary revolutionary and leader of the African National Congress (ANC), uTata OR Tambo.
For the younger generation, OR Tambo was born Oliver Reginald Kaizana (OR) Tambo on the 27th October 1917. He died after a long illness on the 24th of April 1993.
This was hardly two weeks after another giant of our struggle and son of the Eastern Cape, Chris Hani had been assassinated by the enemy agents.
OR Tambo was a South African anti-apartheid politician and revolutionary who served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1967 to 1991.
Yesterday, marked the 26th anniversary of his passing.
In him, we had the brightest star to lead us to our freedom. OR Tambo’s humility and generosity of spirit couldn’t be matched by his peers.
It was this humility coupled with compassion and humanity that earned OR Tambo the love and respect of the people of South Africa, rest of Africa and the World.
OR Tambo’s abiding vision was for a society where no person was exploited, oppressed or despised by another. His life was dedicated to the building of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa and a just world order.
The party he led, the African National Congress had a dream to free our people from the yoke of the diabolical apartheid regime.
We achieved that dream in 1994. Subsequently, another son of this province, our lodestar uTata Nelson Mandela became our very first president of a free and democratic South Africa.
Today, we are on the verge of celebrating 25 years since the advent of democracy.
Therefore, it is no coincidence that we have to return to the birthplace of one of the midwives of our democracy to reconnect with our forebears and fulfil the promise of freedom, a Better Life for all.
Mr. President, OR Tambo, we are here to report to you that your people are free.
Today we live a constitutional state that not only recognises our human rights but advances them.
One of these rights is a right to basic education.
We are here to restore the dignity of our people through handing over a state-of-the-art education facility so that our children can learn under safe and secure classrooms.
Our teachers can teach in an environment that supports the schooling enterprise.
Indeed, South Africa is a better place to live in today than it was pre-1994.
The whirlwind of change taking place seeks to hasten the delivery of a Better Life for All our people.
Notwithstanding our well documented challenges, we have moved closer to realising OR Tambo dream of a Better Life for all.
We have replaced the divided apartheid education system that discriminated against black people by one system for all regardless of race, gender, colour or ethnic background with equal education, appropriate curricula and funding.
In short, 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 just over R16 000 by 2017, a substantial increase from a meagre of 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.
In total, spending on basic education has reached R270 billion by 2019. 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.
In addressing the Education for All goal’s call for the provision of free and compulsory basic education, in 2007, the government adopted a policy of “No Fee” schools.
The aim of this policy is progressively to give effect to the constitutional imperative of the right to basic education.
Today, just over 9 million children in this country receive free basic education, that’s about 80 percent of our schools where parents aren’t required to pay.
Equally, some nine million learners receive a nutritious meal every school day as part of our efforts to mitigate against poverty and hunger.
So, the inability to pay school fees and buy food for your children cannot then be considered as a reason or even an excuse for any child to be out of school.
As a result of these deliberate pro-poor policies, 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.
For example, 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.
We have over 2.4 million children accessing early childhood education in the last financial year alone.
As a nation we must do more to cleanse our land of the excesses of the apartheid regime.
One of the gravest injustices visited upon the people of this province and many others across the country was poor physical educational infrastructure.
The undeniable legacy of apartheid education is starkly seen in poor infrastructure planning and apartheid spatial planning.
This legacy meant that our learners were learning under the trees, some schools were constructed from inappropriate materials (mud, plankie, and asbestos).
In recognition of this grave injustice and many others, we conceptualised a programme of redress. This programme is known as the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI).
In the nutshell this ASIDI’s core purpose is to replace mud schools and all others built from inappropriate materials.
We are not only addressing the issue of classrooms, we also build administration blocks for school principals and management teams.
We bring essential services such as water, electricity, and decent sanitation.
Above all, we provide our learners with the 21st century learning tools such as science laboratory, computer lab, nutrition centre, and the media centre amongst others.
I am pleased to report that through our ASIDI programme we have irrevocably changed the landscape of this province.
We have delivered some 155 state-of-the-art schools here in this province alone.
During the same period, we have provided water to 319 schools, electricity to 202 schools and sanitation to 199 schools.
Nationally, through ASIDI, we have completed 216 state-of-the-art schools and as I speak to you now, some other 100 schools are under construction.
With these state-of-the-art schools, we are not only providing superior facilities, but making learning conditions conducive for today’s learners and countless generations to come.
We are acutely aware that if you want to overcome poverty, unemployment and inequality, you must invest in the education of a nation.
We are certain that as a result of improved infrastructure, and pro-poor interventions, a higher proportion of our children in this region are going to enjoy learning and being kids.
We are not only changing the landscape of this province, at the heart of our service delivery programme is to restore the dignity of our people.
As President Cyril Ramaphosa has said, 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.
We will not be deterred in growing South Africa together. We are proud of our past but equally determined that the future will be much better than yesterday.
I thank you.