Minister of Defence and Military Veterans,
MEC for KZN Education
Chief of the Air Force,
CEOs of all our partners
Director General of Basic Education,
HOD of the KZN Education Department
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed an honour for me to address this very unique awards ceremony as part of the innovative approach to career guidance organised under the banner of the South African Air Force (SAAF).
The programme aptly named the Young Falcons Aviation Awareness Winter Camp is indeed a unique programme.
Because, it fuses the general career guidance principles with the special focus on application of key concepts in Mathematics and Physical Science.
It also improve one’s academic agility while also fine tuning young people’s interpersonal skills, and behavioural patterns which builds one’s character.
As they say you simple can’t buy a character, you have to build it. Thus this programme distinguishes itself from all other generic winter school programs.
It is also instructive that the brain child of this programme is the South African Air Force (SAAF).
The South African Air Force is the pride and joy of the South African people and rest of the African continent.
The images that went viral across the world, 19 years ago, of the Air Force Oryx helicopter crew rescuing a child born on a tree in Mozambique will never be forgotten.
You will be pleased to know that miracle baby, Baby Rosita Mabuiango is now a grown up and dependable young woman. You did us proud then, and you continue to do so today without ceasing.
Programme Director, South Africa is better place to live in today compared to pre-1994.
Every five years we hold national and provincial elections that are credible, free and fair.
We are not a pariah of the world community, but a source of envy because of our Constitution.
Our Constitution which turns 23 years this year and is considered the most progressive in the world.
In its preamble, it says as a nation we must, ‘heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.’
In April this year we celebrated 25 years of democracy, peace and liberty.
We have had a civilian government, a government chosen by the people for 25 years.
Our army generals respect the Constitution and protects our democracy, and play a crucial role in advancing our international obligations around the continent to silence guns of war.
In today's South Africa, girls and boys stand a better chance to develop and prosper.
Yet, there’s a growing chasm between black and white.
There’s a growing social distance between the governors and the governed. Inequality and poverty continue to grow unabated.
Poverty bears an imprint of a black woman.
Our economy has stagnated. Majority of our youth are unemployed and unskilled.
Programme Director, yet I stand here before you to say to our young people, our future is bound to be better than yesterday.
The strength of a people is not tested during the period of bountiful harvest but at times of enduring drought and/or stormy seas.
Yet, ‘gloom and despondency have never defeated adversity. Trying times need courage and resilience,’ so said our former President Thabo Mbeki.
There’s a new resolve in this new Government, big business and civil society to redouble our efforts so that we may indeed free the potential of each young person in our land.
We have entered a period of Khawuleza (hurry up).
I want to talk to you about aviation and importance of Mathematics and Physical Science, generally about the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers.
Our policy lodestar, the National Development Plan (NDP) enjoins us to reduce poverty, reduce inequality and ensure that all citizens have better working and living conditions by 2030.
To achieve this South Africa needs to produce over 30 000 qualified artisans a year to meet the ongoing labour demand.
It is estimated that by 2020, as many as 80 per cent of all future jobs will require a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
Yet, globally, only 14 per cent of the STEM workforce consists of females, and only 7 per cent in South Africa.
With this in mind, efforts are being made by both the Government and private sector firms to increase the profile of STEM fields among women.
This in turn will allow the workforce to access a wealth of untapped potential – and boost South Africa’s gender equality in the process.
When it comes to life affirming careers in aviation which has its foundation in Mathematics and Science, opportunities are limitless.
It has been recognised by the international aviation community that there will be an anticipated shortage of skilled aviation professionals in the near future.
According to aviation experts, the aviation industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
It has been reported that by 2030 air traffic volume would increase by 50%.
The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) says it needs around 60,000 new pilots, technicians and engineers as in yesterday.
Globally, some 480 000 additional technicians will be needed to maintain the growing aircraft fleet, by 2026. Over 350 000 pilots will also be needed to fly them.
Airlines and the entire aerospace industry are dependent on a pipeline of young, appropriately educated talent who they can prepare, with bridging training, for careers in the sector.
This is here where the ingenuity of our Air Force is on display with this programme.
The Gauteng Province recently launched the Aviation School of Specialisation amongst others.
Presently, each year around 140 000 grade 12 students complete the matriculation examination with a bachelor’s pass, and of these only around 50 000 students pass mathematics with a score higher than 50%.
The pool of students who can potentially access university and science based TVET programmes is very small in comparison to the skill demands in the country.
We have begun to work on solving this conundrum using programmes to reach out to our young people, and encouraging them to take STEM careers seriously.
In this regard, we have taken a bold step by introducing Coding as a subject in South African schools. Apparently Coding is our new green gold.
Some thinkers go even further and consider Coding skills as a new form of literacy.
As a result, we have already trained 43,774 teachers in computer skills and will shortly start training new ones in Coding pedagogy. As we speak initial training in this regard started this month.
Coding as a subject will be piloted at 1,000 schools across five provinces starting in the 2020 school year.
Plans are also afoot to introduce a robotics curriculum from Grade R-9.
One of the largest universities on this continent, the University of South Africa (UNISA) has partnered with us by making available their 24 ICT Laboratories throughout the country for the training of 72,000 teachers in Coding.
Our partners, include giants such as Google, Teen Geeks and other businesses are also supporting us in order to develop a Coding platform that uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to customise teaching and learning.
The curricula will ensure that our schooling system produces learners with the foundations for future work, and equip them with skills for the changing world.
Centuries ago, people who could read and write were in a position of power and controlled both the present and the future.
Now, when our world relies on technology, people with tech-related skills have more options to be successful and shape their future instead of being passive consumers of technology.
STEM fields desperately need more girls and women, and the statistics prove it! They are half of all tech users and make 85% of shopping decisions.
At the same time, according to the research conducted by Accenture and Girls Who Code, the number of women in STEM has decreased since the 1990s.
If we do not reverse this trend, the number of female computer scientists will fall from 24% to 22% by 2025.
For various reasons, teenage girls, even those who like maths in school, become discouraged from pursuing education and careers in technology.
The point of this winter school is ignite fire inside each one of you. Don’t be discouraged.
As a country, we have made a substantial push towards digitisation and technology in South Africa’s education sector in recent months.
In his 2019 February State of the Nation address President Cyril Ramaphosa said that over the next six years, government will provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device.
The President said the Department of Education would also expand the training of both educators and learners to ‘respond to emerging technologies’ including the internet of things, robotics and artificial intelligence.
Our future as a people hinges on accelerated performance by our learners in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Let us grab opportunities in these fields and build a South Africa of our dreams.
I thank you.