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Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at 6th National Congress of NAPTOSA held Emperors Palace, Kempton Park, 22 October 2019

Theme: “To soon to despair”

Programme Director

President of NAPTOSA, Mr Nkosiphendule Ntantala,

National Executive Committee (NEC) of NAPTOSA

Members of NAPTOSA

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen


It gives me an enormous pleasure and gratitude to deliver a keynote address at this august occasion, the 6th National Congress of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA).

The year 2019 is an exciting year for NAPTOSA as you mark your 13th year anniversary of being a disciplined force for teachers in the sector. This is indeed a milestone in a life of any organisation.

On behalf of the all political principals in the basic education sector and Ministry of Basic Education, we wish you many more decades to come of inspiring hope and providing leadership to the heartbeat of the sector i.e. Teachers.  

Chairperson, let’s toast to 13 years of leadership, growth and victories.

Indeed, ‘it’s too soon to despair.’ In fact, life doesn’t even begin with us. We have no business wallowing in self-pity.  

Progress and victories aren’t about us. Only posterity will pass judgement on our actions and omissions. We owe our success to our forebears. We learn of mistakes, challenges and missteps from generations before us.

Our tasks is to move South Africa to the next frontier of economic development of which basic education plays a key role.

A colossus, world-renowned Kenyan writer and dream weaver Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o writes about a white settler who lends his white visitor a horse to ride to the station, seventeen miles away. He orders a worker, probably the one who looks after the stable, to walk with the rider so he can bring the animal back.

The iron-hoofed horse trots; barefoot worker runs to keep pace. On the way back, the tired worker mounts the horse. Whites who see a black body on a horse report the sacrilege.

Upon arrival at the master’s residence, the settler flogs the worker while European neighbours came to watch the sport.

Eventually the worker, a native dies of his injuries, and there no consequences for the settler.

After 25 years since the advent of democracy, we can safely say we are no longer just walking to keep pace with the horse. We are alive and well.

Our oceans teem with life, where the beautiful vistas of our country are spectacular and its diverse people are vibrant and resilient, says our President, His Excellence Cyril Ramaphosa. 

We live in a free and democratic society. Despite the fact that our country is going through pain. It is a collective pain that would never be too much of burden on our shoulders, for we know we shall overcome. As they say no elephant ever tires from carrying its own tusks.

We are no longer that native in Kenya who walks while the white settler mounts the horse. We own the horse. We run the stables. In short, we are in charge of our destiny. The future belongs to us.  

It maybe that we have heightened levels of anxiety as our economy has tanked after years of state capture and malfeasance. It may be that the cost of living has skyrocketed while our pay cheques have remained stagnant.

We may even feel that those charged with the responsibility to ride the horse of renewal and prosperity are sleeping on duty or dillydallying while Rome burns. While all or some of this may have an element of truth, it’s too soon to despair.  

Chairperson, after years of relentless policy changes and stop and start implementation of various models and various hurdles on the way, I am glad to say that the basic education has entered its own season of hope.

The winter of discontent has given rise to the morning spring rain. The early morning mist is clearing to reveal a glorious day. As former President Thabo Mbeki once said, ‘in the summer of light and warmth and life-giving rain, it is to mock the gods to ask them for light and warmth and life-giving rain.’

We can already see the rainbow after a torrent of rains. By all indications, the basic education sector, is now firmly, ‘a system on the rise.’

We have travelled along many a famished road made famous by Ben Okri in his epic novel, the famished road, for so long.

Today, we are emboldened by various independent scientific reports to say we are about to reach the river of our destiny. This is in spite of naysayers and manufacturers of outrage whose only stock-in-trade is that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.   

I am here to announce that 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.

Chairperson, before I elaborate on our priorities for this term of office, I must take the liberty to address the elephant in the room, the so called, Grade Nine exit certificate.

Since I made the announcement, there’s has a lot of breast-beating and gnashing of teeth.

As Shakespeare once said, the whole brouhaha that we are about to introduce a Grade Nine exit certificate before Matric is nothing but ‘a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

The proposed General Education Certificate (GEC) is a Level 1 qualification on the South African National Qualifications Framework. It’s a transitional qualification rather than an exit qualification.

In simple language, it marks the end of compulsory school-going phase, Grade Nine, with a nationally recognized qualification after having passed a standardised national assessment. Inherently, it will offer a standardised benchmark against which schools can compare their internal assessment standards.

It also speak to the Government policy as expressed in various position papers since 1995 - that the system must ‘provide for an increasing range of learning possibilities, offering learners greater flexibility in choosing what, where, when, how and at what pace they learn.’

The key purpose of the GEC is to offer learners an accurate and reliable indicator of their academic progress at the end of basic education (compulsory school-going phase) and a national certificate for their efforts.

As we know Grade Nine is also a phase wherein learners choose further education streams.

Thus, this certificate will be used as a barometer to assist learners to choose their future learning pathways that are available in the system such as Academic, Technical Vocational and Technical Occupational.

It will also be recognised by all public Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges for some of their programmes in the technical vocational and technical occupational streams.

One of the advantages of the GEC is that it could provide valuable national data to gauge the performance of our basic education system before the high stakes Grade 12 examinations.

The GEC also seeks to address the high dropout rate before Grade 12. These learners exit the system without having written a national standardised examination, and no evidence of nine years of learning. As a result they cannot pursue other avenues of learning and training such as in the TVET colleges.

No learner will be asked to exit schooling at Grade Nine. That’s it is not this Government policy. We are creating a nation of life-long learners.

Chairperson, let me take you through our eleven non-negotiable strategic areas we have identified for the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), 2019 – 2024. These 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 existing Department’s 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 existing 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 as I said earlier.

A draft framework for the GEC has been developed. Assessment and examination modalities for the GEC are being investigated and preliminary findings have been presented at the Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM) meeting.

The Technical Occupational subjects have been packaged and submitted to Umalusi for approval. The Field Trial for the General Education Certificate (GEC) at the end of Grade Nine is scheduled for completion at the end of July 2020.

Meanwhile, 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 to do so in the light of the National Development Plan (NDP’s) injunction that we must have a ‘world class assessment system’ involving ‘reliable measures of learning for every school across grades.’ 

The first cycle of systemic evaluation in Grades 3, 6 and 9 will be finalised by June 2020.

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 compulsory Early Childhood Development (ECD) before Grade 1; and the systematic function shift of the responsibility for ECD from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education in line with global trends.

We remain committed to rolling-out a high quality childhood learning programme through offering two years of a universal and compulsory Early Childhood Development in this current term of office.

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 (SAPS) 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 human papilloma virus (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 National School Nutrition Programme (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, as we all know the road ahead is full of potholes. Our own lives are full of riddles. Yet, only the living understand the riddles of death and decay.

It is thus incumbent upon us - this generation to solve the riddles of our sector and triumph. Our gains are irreversible. Victory is certain! Indeed, ‘it’s too soon to despair.’   

I thank you.

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Written By: DBE Webmaster
Date Posted: 10/24/2019
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