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Message of Support by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, Delivered at the COSAS’s 19th National Congress held at the Living Waters, Pretoria, 28 September 2019

Chairperson

Members of the National Leadership of COSAS

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my privilege to address the 19th National Congress of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS). COSAS earned its proud reputation in the juggle during the war against the marauding forces of the apartheid regime.

As I said during my address at your 2014 National Conference, and I repeat today: ‘COSAS is indeed a beacon of hope; a shining light for the future generations to come.

You represent through deeds and discipline, a promise that future leaders of society will be drawn from this cohort of young lions.’ During the apartheid days and often under difficult conditions you conscientised young people and the wider community to the repressive nature of the Bantu education in our country.

In the post-apartheid society, since 1994, you have continued relentlessly to champion the cause of young people. Today, COSAS can proudly pat itself on the back for having played a pivotal role in the transformation of our schooling sector.

Our basic education sector today reflects COSAS’s founding ethos, non-racial, non-racial and democratic in character. Our policy lodestar, the National Development Plan (NDP) underscores an important point when it avers that the single most important investment any country can make is in its people. Thus, basic education is the single most important expression of investing in one’s people.

Only basic education has an intrinsic and instrumental value in creating societies that are better able to respond to the challenges of the 21st century and beyond. In you, Young Lions, we have our brightest stars to take the national democratic revolution to the next level.

The year 2019 marks exactly 40 years since COSAS was launched to represent the interests of school-going youth of our country. For 40 long years you have unashamedly raised the political consciousness of young people.  Today, we safely say you’re a highly disciplined force of the national democratic revolution.

COSAS’s ability to continue championing the interest of young people post the apartheid struggle is a marvel to watch. It reinforces our conviction that your forebears were indeed visionaries. We salute your founding President Comrade Ephraim Mogale and other stalwarts such as Kgotso Chikane, Lulu Johnson, and Lebohang Maile to name just a few.

Chairperson, our country is in safe hands with this cohort of leaders under the stewardship of COSAS. The African philosopher and pre-eminent psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon once proclaimed that:

‘Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it….’

I have no doubt in my mind that the 2019 generation know and understand their mission and that is - Quality Education in Our Lifetime.

Today, it seems like a century ago when COSAS was launched in the wake of the June, 16, Soweto Uprisings. As we speak today, we are confronted with the different questions to the youth trailblazers of 1979.

These questions relates to the deteriorating levels of the social fabric of society amplified by the recent heightened levels of gender based violence, and concerns over schools safety.

Other key questions include our extent of preparedness to harness the potential of the 4th Industrial Revolution in pursuit of the highest quality of basic education, leading to significantly improved learning outcomes.

Chairperson, let me address the issue of gender based violence first. Let me take this liberty to remind all learners and COSAS leadership that there’s handbook for learners on how to prevent sexual abuse in public schools, titled Speak Out - Youth Report Sexual Abuse.

The purpose of the handbook is to equip learners with knowledge and understanding of sexual harassment and sexual violence, its implications, ways to protect themselves from perpetrators, and where to report. The handbook also provides very useful contact details of national and provincial organizations that can assist.

We have also published the Protocol on the Management and Reporting of Sexual Abuse and Harassment in Public Schools.

The second pertinent issue is schools safety which is broader than just the attack on bodies of women and vulnerable children.

Chairperson, as the basic education sector, we subscribe to the notion of creating safe, caring and supportive school environment for all. We believe that schools must inherently be safe havens for learning and nurturing young minds. We are firmly of a view that safe and secure schools offer our learners an opportunity to develop their full potential without any hindrance.

Therefore, we are committed in making sure that all our young people learn under such nurturing school environments - so that - they too can become active citizens of a thriving nation at peace with itself.

But, the reality is that we live in a violent society. Therefore, the violence seen at schools accentuates the dictum that schools are in fact the microcosm of society.

In this regard, we convened a 2nd School Safety Summit in October last year. We have since strengthened the implementation of the National School Safety Framework.

This Framework serves as a management tool for Provincial and District Officials responsible for school safety, principals, Senior Management Team Members, SGB members, teachers and learners to identify and manage risk and threats of violence in and around schools.

Chairperson, we have signed a protocol with the South African Police Service (SAPS), whereby every police station would adopt a school to deal speedily with incidents of violence and criminality within school premises.

In the wake of deteriorating levels of violence in our schools we have since augmented the Alcohol & Drug Use and Sexuality Education into an overarching Integrated School Health Programme.

We continuously monitor the implementation of the national strategy for the prevention and management of alcohol and drug use in schools.  Simultaneously, we are supporting and monitoring the implementation of the integrated strategy on HIV, STIs and TB in all provinces.

I urge COSAS leadership to hold principals, police and education authorities accountable on the implementation of these measures in both the Framework and Protocol.

In this national cause to keep our schools safe, we also need young people to work with us. We urge young people to focus exclusively on their education and not dabble in alcohol and drugs.

If we succeed in curbing drug use in schools that will in turn prevent drug use within the communities and render them safe for all citizens. All Schools have been provided with a Guide to Drug Testing in South African Schools.

In terms of the Regulations for Safety Measures at all Public Schools, I have declared all public schools as drug free and dangerous weapon free zones.

In the same vein, all teachers are also prohibited from bringing any weapon or drugs to schools. Dangerous weapons include those used in the past to administer corporal punishment. All our schools are by law free of corporal punishment of any nature.

My message to all teachers today is, ‘desist from practising corporal punishment or face the consequences.’  

My message to all learners in South Africa is, ‘stop bullying your fellow learners. Do not vandalise school property. Stop verbal abuse of your peers.

No to sexual abuse either perpetuated by fellow learners or teachers. Learners must say no to gangsterism, carrying of dangerous weapons, use of and abuse of drugs on school premises.’

Chairperson, let me address the matter of public importance. At the SADTU National Congress this week I announced for the third time that we are ready to introduce a new qualification, namely, the General Education Certificate at the end of Grade 9.

I said the Field Trial for the General Education Certificate (GEC) at the end of Grade 9 is scheduled for completion at the end of July 2020.

A draft framework for the GEC has been developed. Assessment and examination modalities for the GEC are being investigated and have been presented at the HEDCOM meeting. The Technical Occupational subjects have been packaged and submitted to Umalusi for approval.

I want to emphasise that the new certificate is not an exit one, meaning your basic education is complete. The General Education Certificate would facilitate the pathways between schools and colleges at a level below Grade 12.

Apart from facilitating the transition from school to college, a GEC would address the current problem of hundreds of thousands of young people leaving education completely each year with no national qualification with which to navigate the labour market.

The GEC certificate is predicated on the 3-Stream Model. The Three Stream Model is delineated into three pathways -- academic, technical vocational and technical occupational.

As far back as May 2018, we told the Basic Education Portfolio Committee that we could subject learners to public exams at the end of Grade 9, which would be helpful in terms of streaming learners into the further education and training (FET) field.

We explained the rationale thus: The intention with the technical vocational stream is to assist in producing artisans as part of responding to the National Development Plan (NDP).

In conclusion, Chairperson, it thought it is important to share with our plans for the new term of office after the May, general elections.

Comrade Chairperson for us to reach our lofty ideal of realising a world class basic education system in our lifetime, the 6th Democratic Administration has decided to do only smart moves. 

Of course, the President in his June State of the Nation urged all of us to focus on implementation. ‘Now is the time to focus on implementation,’ he told the nation.

Hence the zeitgeist of the basic education in this new (current) term of office is to focus on implementation, and heightened levels of service delivery and accountability.

Therefore, we have convened the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) in July, and resolved henceforth that there’s no need to overhaul the entire architecture of the basic education system.

We are not about to introduce a new curriculum. But, as you all know any curriculum worth the paper it is written on remains a dynamic document, meaning only amendments occasioned by the new developments will be considered. Instead, our focus is on the re-engineering of the sector to cement, ‘the narrative of a system on the rise.’

It is all about being faster (Kwauleza Phase), smarter (Digital Innovation) to be built into the service delivery ecosystem for better quality and best value in our basic education sector.

In this regard, we have identified eleven focus areas as strategic levers for the 2019 to 2024 Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF). 

The eleven strategic areas we have identified for the 2019 MTSF are: 

Priority 1:  Improving the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy, especially ‘Reading for meaning.’

We have developed a National Reading Framework which maps out differentiated approaches on how to teach reading in African languages.

The Framework also provide guidelines for the development of quality reading materials, and teacher development programmes.

We will develop and adopt a National Reading Plan for primary schools using evidence as a reporting tool for interventions by end of 2019. 

We will encourage schools, parents and communities in the target areas to actively participate in the reading movement to establish a reading culture.  We will actively establish partnerships and raise funds to support the reading movement. 

Reading norms will be deepened to strengthen existing curriculum delivery, building on the DBE norms already in use in different African languages. 

In addition, to track progress in the Basic Education Sector, we will finalise a draft report on education progress, using the Household Survey data, anytime this year.

Priority 2:  Immediate implementation of a curriculum focussing on skills and competencies for a changing world. It must take into account the disruption brought by the 4th Industrial Revolution as well as the introduction of Entrepreneurship, and schools of specialisation or focus schools. We have begun the process of strengthening our curriculum by introducing new and exciting subjects such as Aviation Studies, Maritime and Coding and Robotics.

Our plan is to introduce 10 types of Focus Schools incrementally throughout the country in the Medium to Long Term to offer these new subjects and other skills based subjects. We will establish Hi-Tech (IT, Coding and Robotics Schools), Arts, Maths and Science, BCM, Aviation, Maritime, Engineering (Technical High Schools), Hospitality & Tourism, Schools of Skills and Commercial Schools.

Priority 3:  Collaborate with the Department of Higher Education and Training to equip teachers with skills and knowledge to teach literacy and numeracy.

We are already working with the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology in revising the, ‘The Minimum Requirements for Teacher Education Qualifications (MRTEQ)’, in line with new global trends. The grand idea is to enhance the quality and efficiency of the Initial Teacher Education programmes. 

We are also building capacity for Mathematics Teachers in the Foundation Phase (FP). Our approach is to put them through a year- long course at the universities. However, we have a funding crunch. Our partner in this programme, the European Union which is the only funder.

The current projection is that the current training budget will only benefit 200 Foundation Phase Advisors in two districts in one province at a cost of R8 million.

Priority 4:  Dealing decisively with the quality and efficiency through the implementation of standardised assessments to reduce failure, repetition, and drop-out rates.

We are also working on the introduction of multiple qualifications such as the General Education Certificate before the Grade 12 exit qualification.

We plan to launch a Systemic Evaluation to be conducted at strategic grades by finalising preparations, and technical standards for the administration of systemic evaluation to enable high level national and provincial monitoring. We are do so in the light of the NDP’s injunction to have a ‘World Class Assessment System’ involving ‘reliable measures of learning for every primary school.’ 

The first cycle of Systemic Evaluation in Grades 3, 6 and 9 will be finalised by June 2020. The Field Trial for the General Education Certificate (GEC) at the end of Grade 9 is scheduled for completion at the end of July 2020.

A draft framework for the GEC has been developed. Assessment and examination modalities for the GEC are being investigated and have been presented at the HEDCOM meeting. The Technical Occupational subjects have been packaged and submitted to Umalusi for approval.

Priority 5:  Eliminate the digital divide by ensuring that within six years, all schools and education offices have access to internet and free data.

By the end of 2019, we will complete and digitise CAT and IT Grade 10 -12 state-owned textbooks (high enrolment subjects). Assess 10% of the Special schools for connectivity and ICT infrastructure deployment.

Assess a further 10% of the Special schools for connectivity and ICT infrastructure deployment, and provide 100 schools with e-Library solution, before the end of this year.

From 2021 onwards, we are looking forward to gradually increase from 34 available titles of the number of workbooks in interactive format.

It is envisaged that making availability of the workbooks in the interactive format will have cost saving in printing and distribution as the interactive workbooks will be available on gadgets as part of learning and teaching materials.

Priority 6:  Urgent implementation of the two-years of ECD before Grade 1; and the systematic function shift of the responsibility for ECD from the Department of Social Development to the DBE.

As I said earlier, we remain committed to rolling-out a high quality childhood learning programme through offering two years of a universal and compulsory Early Childhood Development.

Priority 7:  Decolonisation of basic education through the teaching and promotion of African languages, South African and African History and national symbols to all learners up to Grade 12;

The reappointed Ministerial Task Team (MTT) on History has commenced the writing of a revised History curriculum based on the report developed by the MTT.

The writing process will involve the call for public comments and inputs as soon as they are finished with the draft document. This step will be followed by the writing of new textbooks for History in Grades 4-12 that are in-line with the new curriculum.

To prepare the system for the introduction of the new curriculum, there will have to be rigorous teacher training to prepare the system for the introduction of new the History curriculum. The introduction of compulsory History will be done phase by phase from Grade 10 until 12.

Priority 8: Cooperate with the South African Police Services and the Departments of Health, as well as Sport, Arts and Culture, to teach and promote school safety, health and social cohesion;

A conducive learning environment is a necessary pre-requisite to achieving quality education. Given some of the pressing and spiralling social ills in our society, it has become increasingly critical for us to double our efforts in providing psychosocial support services in the sector.

By the end of 2019, we will finalise training and materials including the Guide for Schools on Providing Psychosocial Support to Learners to improve standards of practice on psychosocial support at school level.

Health and Safety in schools:

By the end of 2019, we will support the provision of school health services to 200 000 learners in Grade R, 1, 4, 8 and 10 including HPV in Grade 5. 

We will print and distribute 571 752 Educator Guides and Learner Books on Sexuality Education Scripted Lesson Plans for Grades 4 -6 and 10 – 12 in 537 primary and 435 secondary schools, respectively. 

We will host a workshop on the Restorative Conferencing and Physical Assault Response jointly with School Safety towards violence prevention to improve competence of violence prevention in the sector.

Priority 9: Complete an integrated Infrastructure Development Plan, informed by Infrastructure delivery and regular maintenance, which is resourced.

The provision and maintenance of infrastructure remains one of our key priorities as a sector.

In order to improve the delivery of infrastructure, we will be revisiting the delivery model for infrastructure projects in order to save on the cost of providing education infrastructure, and to improve contract management processes with our implementing agents and/service providers.

We will also be researching on alternative funding modalities for provision of infrastructure to augment existing funds as well as ramping up our maintenance programme.

Priority 10:  Increase the safety-net through pro-poor policies to cover learners who are deserving in programmes, such as ECD and Learners with Special Education Needs (LSEN).

As a key driver in stimulating the local economy, the NSNP provides business opportunities to 4035 enterprises, the majority of which are Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs). Furthermore, 61 471 volunteer food handlers are engaged.

We intend to improve their training in food preparation, hygiene and food safety, and work towards the accreditation of this training. We will do this through colleges, so that it provides a first step towards skills building, entrepreneurship and formal qualification.

Priority 11: Strengthen partnership with all stakeholders, private sector, and promote integrated governance, intergovernmental relations, and labour peace.

By the end of 2019 all our International and National partners will be guided by our focus on improving learner outcomes, especially in the Foundation Phase. 

In conclusion, I wish the new leadership of COSAS well as they take the organisation to the next level. We count on you to continue being a reliable ally in the education of South Africa’s children, our true and undisputed national asset. 

I thank you.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 10/1/2019
Number of Views: 619

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