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Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education Mrs. Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Commemoration of the 2019 World Teachers’ Day held at the DBE Conference Centre, 09 October 2019

Programme Director: Dr. Granville Whittle

Basic Education Deputy Minister: Dr. Makgabo Mhaule

Basic Education Director-General: Mr. Mweli Mathanzima  

UNESCO officials;

Teachers from all provinces;

Our social partners;

Officials from SACE, NECT; ELRC and the ETDP SETA;

Officials from the Chinese Embassy;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen.


Good morning to all our Excellences, i.e. Our Teachers and distinguished guests.

It is an honour and privilege to address the second event marking the 2019 World Teachers’ International Day.   

This year’s event coincides with the centenary of the oldest UN agency, the International Labour Organization (ILO) whose mandate is to advance social justice and promote decent work by setting international labour standards.

The ILO was the first specialised agency of the UN which was founded in 1919. As part of commemorating its centenary, the organisation has embarked on seven Centenary Initiatives.  

These are - the future of work initiative, the end to poverty initiative, the women at work initiative, the green initiative, the standards initiative, the enterprises initiative, and the governance initiative.

Similarly, the 2019 World Teachers’ Day marks the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which recognizes education as a key fundamental right and establishes an entitlement to free compulsory education, ensuring inclusive and equitable access for all children.

Today is a special occasion to celebrate the teaching profession, to take stock of our achievements, and to address some of the issues central for attracting and keeping the brightest minds and young talents in the profession.

The difference of course is that today I am addressing exclusively the crème de la crème of our teaching cohort. I don’t want you to read about this in media reports, hence I prefer that you hear it straight from the horse's mouth.

I, as Basic Education Minister, I am very proud of the caliber of all teachers that we have in our system. In short, siyaziqhenya ngani, we are very proud of you. Thank you for staying, firstly in South Africa, and secondly in the public schooling teaching environment.

Some education researchers who are yet develop a compulsive perpetual negative narrative about our sector have described our education system as, ‘better resourced with lower pupil-teacher ratios, and better qualified teachers.’  

As cliché as it may sound, I must say teachers in the South African basic education system are indispensable. In fact they are key in our efforts to steer our country back into the necessary growth path after years of inertia, state capture and general malfeasance.

Without the over 400 000 teachers on the payroll of the State servicing over 12 million children, the system will collapse.

The idea that we are too big to fail is a joke. It is not a cliché to say teachers are and will remain the heartbeat of any serious basic education department.  We salute all of you. Your country is proud of your exploits.

Just to paint a global picture, education economists say approximately 3% of the economically active population in our country are teachers in the public system.

The teachers’ wage bill accounts for approximately 3.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Personnel spending comprises more than 80% of education spending, (that’s 80 percent of roughly over R262. billion in the 2019 MTEF cycle) which in turn comprises a substantial portion of government expenditure – estimated at 20 percent since 2015.   

I stand before you today to say that all South African teachers are the pride and joy of our country. You’re truly a national treasure worth celebrating every day.

Our teachers are committed, qualified and work beyond the call of duty. As evidenced in the recent teaching and learning international survey, TALIS, 2018 report, our teachers work in unfavorable conditions generated by environmental factors such as the prevalence of crime, poverty and burden of diseases.

As a country, we must do more to show appreciation to our teachers. We must do so through both monetary and non-monetary measures for their tenacity, expertise and staying power.

Our Teacher Appreciation and Support Programme (TASP) has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception. Today we will showcase some milestones with our local and international partners.

According to TALIS report we are not a ‘Zama Zama’ Department as 97% of our teachers said they are in the profession to influence children's development and contribute to society. In my language, that’s patriotism.

Programme Director, over the years falsehoods have been told about our teachers. Lies and half-truths have been repeated so often that they have grown three legs.

In fact, falsehoods and scarecrows sustain the notion of the so called ‘education crisis in South Africa.’ There’s no education crisis in South Africa. In fact numerous independent research findings, and our own data shows that, ‘we are a system on the rise.’ 

Let’s deal with myth number 1, ‘South African teachers are not qualified.’ This is nothing but a tissue of lies.

Programme Director, we have greatly improved the quality of our teachers. In 1994, only 54 percent of the African teachers were qualified, but today out of over 410 000 teachers, only a statistically insignificant number is still completing their qualifications.

According to the Centre for Development & Enterprise (CDE) latest (March 2015) report, ‘it produced some noteworthy and surprising findings about the current teaching force.’ See even the researchers were surprised by the results.

The CDE used data based on just over 400, 000 teachers, who were South African citizens between the ages of 22 and 65, from the Annual School Survey (ASS) data, it produced the following profile of the South African teaching force:

  • 81 per cent qualified: 66 per cent had an M+3 qualification and 15 per cent had an M+4.
  • 19 per cent unqualified: In education lingo, an unqualified teacher is a person who doesn’t have an initial teacher training or post graduate teaching certificate, yet they have the necessary three year diploma/degree in a subject they teach.
  • In 2013, we had 10 per cent of teachers who had the equivalent of an M+3 qualification but no professional teaching qualification, and about another 10 per cent had an M+2 or lower.

Just to show that our teachers are life-long learners between 2012 and 2013, 31 per cent of teachers upgraded from unqualified to qualified while in employment, this exceeded the 22 per cent of new teacher graduates who entered employment for the first time in 2013. This trend has continued over the years.

This suggests that the majority of teachers build up their qualifications on the job, often over many years. In fact by 2017, the number of unqualified teachers was less than 5000 including the underqualified teacher cohort.

Interestingly, Programme Director nationally, the supply of newly qualified teachers had almost tripled over the five years to 2017, growing from 5939 in 2008 to 25 877 in 2017.       

Thus, the CDE report concluded that if the number of graduates continues to increase, South Africa, will be able to produce sufficient teachers for the next decade, from 2015 to 2025.

The report says these new teachers will ‘maintain the current learner to educator ratio (LER) of 29.2 learners to 1 teacher for the whole system.’

This is of course as a result of growing our own timber through the Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme. Some optimistic experts now expect South Africa to have a surplus of 81 725 teachers by 2020.

A further thirteen thousand Funza Lushaka bursaries have been awarded to student teachers, this year alone, at a cost or over 1.2. Billion rands.

Since inception in 2007 to 2018, we have awarded a whopping 134 211 Funza Lushaka bursaries at a cost of R8.36 billion.

This number exclude thousands who were funded through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, not to mention those who paid from non-state sources for their initial teacher education training.  Despite this success, we have no desire to take our foot off the accelerator.

Programme Director, I am happy to announce that we are currently busy conducting an analysis of teacher supply, demand and utilisation in the sector. After the analysis, we will provide a comprehensive report to the Council of Education Ministers (CEM).

We are also in the process of the reprioritisation of the Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme’s priority areas. This is a response to emerging areas of specialisation occasioned by amongst others the 4th Industrial Revolution and new policy imperatives.

For teachers already in employment, opportunities to diversify their teaching offering abounds.  In this year alone, we have already offered training to over 43,774 teachers in computer skills.

As we speak the initial 72,000 teachers are back at varsity learning Coding pedagogy with one of the prestigious and largest universities on this continent, the University of South Africa (UNISA).  

As you know 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.

Our partners, include giants such as Google, Teen Geeks and other businesses that 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.

Our thinking is that our funding for new student teachers should be in line with emerging priorities such as the need for qualified ECD practitioners in anticipation of the revamped ECD sector, digital learning, focus schools, and the three stream-model curriculum.     

Obviously there’s certain areas that need improvements such as lower rate of women in education leadership.

According to the teaching and learning international survey (TALIS) 2018, 60% of teachers in South Africa were female which compared reasonably well with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 68%.

However, the TALIS also indicated only 22% of principals are female, which is less than half of the OECD average of 47%. In comparison, 51% of principals in Saudi Arabia are female.

We are seized with matter of low participation rates of women in Principalship. If I had my way South Africa would have 51 percent women principals by 2025.

Our Policy on the South African Standard for Principalship will play an important role in providing guidance for the selection process and capacity building programme for principals in particular women.

In addition, we have launched a unique qualification for Principalship, namely the Advanced Diploma in Education (ADE): School Leadership which in the future will form part of a criterion for anybody aspiring to be a principal. 

This is not a Mickey Mouse qualification but a fully-fledged academic programme offered exclusively by a selected South African universities.

Programme Director, the second myth is that our teaching cohort is ageing, most teachers resign to access their pensions and others are fed up so they go to teach abroad. 

According to the TALIS 2018, about 32% of teachers are aged 50 and above which compares favourable with the OECD average of 34% and roughly puts us in league with countries such as the US, Japan and Australia.

We monitor the trends of attrition of teachers in public schools over a period of five years.

Looking at five financial years up to the end of March 2017, it shows that attrition rate due to resignation decreased drastically between financial years 2015/16 and 2016/17 from 8 619 to 5 211.

Overall, attrition rate due to resignation of teachers accounts for about 1.9% of all teachers.

Our teachers are so good such that they are head-hunted by some developed countries such as England, China, New Zealand and Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Programme Director, we will intensify our efforts of improving the quality of teaching and the status of the teaching profession. 

We will continue to empower and equip our teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world, as well as focus on foundational skills such as teaching literacy and Mathematics.

In this regard, we are implementing the Professional Development Framework for Digital Learning.  Since Framework was adopted, we have set up Provincial Core Training Teams in six of the nine provinces.

The rest of the provinces are to be covered in this financial year.

These training teams are responsible for the roll-out in their provinces, and are also provided with resources to distribute to all teachers. 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.

The full implementation of the framework will commence in the new financial year.

Working with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the NECT, we are pursuing ways to ensure a balanced approach to the teaching of numeracy and mathematics as evident in the Department’s recently developed Framework for Teaching Mathematics with Understanding.

The latter is being implemented in 41 schools in three provinces benefiting 14543 foundation phase learners in five African languages offered as LoLT (IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, Sepedi, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga).

Programme Director, we are also collaborating 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 accredited course at selected universities.

Programme Director, the emerging narrative of a basic education system that is on the rise has also found traction internationally.

Programme Director, we believe in the adage that says the quality of a school cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.

In this regard, we are doubling our efforts in the area of teacher professionalism, continued learning programmes including leadership and school based management.

We will be ramping up consequence management in the classrooms. I am happy to announce that we have finally signed the collective agreement No. 2 of 2014: Quality Management System (QMS) for School-Based educators. 

The purpose of Collective Agreement is to provide a standardised framework for teachers’ performance. The aim of the Agreement is also to improve accountability levels in all schools.

The QMS is a performance management system for school-based teachers designed to evaluate the performance levels of individuals in order to achieve high levels of school performance.

The only area where we agree with the manufacturers of outrage is the issue of reading for meaning. In the recent Council of Education Ministers, a Reworked National Reading Sector Implementation Plan 2019-2024 was presented.

It is an all-encompassing strategy that calls for all affected teachers to undergo a comprehensive course on reading methodologies in EFAL and African Languages amongst many skills required.

In this endeavour, we will work together with universities, the National Reading Coalition, UNICEF and a whole range of local as well as international partners.

The reading imbroglio is matter that requires all members of society to chip in. Young people learn, first, from their parents. If reading happens at home, young people will follow suite.

Nonetheless, as the President Ramaphosa has said our learners will be able for meaning by their tenth birthday. The matter is no longer debatable.

Finally, I would like to thank all our teachers, social partners and stakeholders for gracing this celebration of our teachers.

We acknowledge the tremendous efforts of all our Provincial Education Departments who are at the coalface of the basic education delivery.

In conclusion, we pay tribute to our partners such as the British Council; Flemish Association for Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance, National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT); and Sasol Foundation.

We congratulate you on your nomination to represent the Republic of South Africa at the prestigious UNESCO Hamdan Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers. This award was created in 2008 to support the improvement of teaching and learning quality in achieving the Education for All goals, which is one of UNESCO’s priorities.

I thank you.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 10/10/2019
Number of Views: 3020

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