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Address by Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu (on behalf of the President) at the 20th Annual National Teaching Awards (NTA), Soshanguve East Secondary School, Pretoria, 15th February 2020

Programme Director

Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga

Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Dr Reginah Mhaule

MECs for Education

Chairpersons and Members of the Portfolio and the Select Committees

Asmal family represented by Mr Rafiq Asmal 

Former Directors-General of the Department of Education

Heads of Provincial Education Departments

All National Teaching Awards sponsors

All Education Stakeholders’ Representatives

Finalists of the 20th National Teaching Awards

Members of the media

Ladies and Gentlemen

Fellow South Africans


I am indeed honoured to address the 20th anniversary of this prestigious Annual National Teaching Awards.

We are meeting here to honour the exploits of some of our best teachers in our country. The important work that teachers do in shaping our society is often not recognised or respected. The truth is that teachers are indispensable in our education system.

In fact, committed teachers are key in our efforts to steer our country back into the necessary growth path after years of inertia, state capture and general malfeasance.

Today is a special occasion to celebrate the teaching profession, and to take stock of the progress we have made as a country in honouring these gallant agents of change.

All teachers including those not receiving awards here today are our nation’s treasure. You’re in a frontline of our collective efforts to undergo a skills revolution so as to break the cycle of poverty and grow an inclusive economy.

We pay tribute to the late education minister, Professor Kader Asmal, who pioneered these awards almost 20 years ago.

We thank the Asmal family for allowing us to use his name to honour those teachers who fit the profile of this outstanding educationist and struggle stalwart.

Nine years since his passing, we have come to lament his vision, and steadfast determination to build a South Africa at peace with itself.

I had a lot of interactions with Prof Asmal, and I was always moved by his vision for the future of education, clarity of thought, dogged courage and sheer tenacity. May his soul continue to rest in POWER!

I wish to congratulate all nine teachers shortlisted for the Kader Asmal Award. This award symbolises an ability to the true agents of change in the same mould as the late Prof Asmal.  

As a country, we are proud of your relentless pursuit of excellence amidst unfavourable conditions such as resource constraints, violent protests in their communities, the prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse and other such social ills.

As government we remain seized with the immediate task of improving schools safety, and broadening the psychosocial services to all our learners as we launch our last-ditch effort to deal with substance abuse, crime, drugs and other social ills.  

We make a special appeal to all our diverse communities to exercise maximum restraint during service delivery protests.

No community should find it morally acceptable to shutdown schooling, and/or to burn school infrastructure.

Let’s instead work together to address service delivery constraints as experienced on the ground without resorting to violence and mayhem.

The 20th Annual National Teaching Awards takes place as the world observes the 72nd 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.

In our country, the quest for free, compulsory and equitable basic education is best captured in the historical document, the Freedom Charter which celebrates 65 years this year.

Further, the issue of free and compulsory education as a basic human right also finds expression in our world renowned Constitution which turns 24 years old this year.  

Our Constitution is based on fundamental principles of basic human rights, rule of law and universal adult suffrage.

When former President Nelson Mandela signed the Constitution into law, he on behalf of all South Africans entered into us into a sacred covenant to make a clean break with our apartheid past.  

The Constitution represents a set of values upon which our democracy is founded.  It is our long-term vision for a society we seek to build daily on the ashes of apartheid.

As we mark 30 years since the release of former President Mandela from apartheid prison, and the unbanning of political organisations, we must say never ever again shall it be that the levers of State power are used to subjugate others.

Despite the biding constraints of low investment in infrastructure, stubborn apartheid legacies, and prevalence of social ills, our basic education has come of age.

The recent 2019 matric results particularly those from township and rural schools, demonstrate that South Africa’s basic education is now firmly, a system on the rise.

There’s no doubt that we have made great progress in improving educational outcomes over the last 25 years, yet new challenges abound.

In this regard, 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.

I am happy to report that we are implementing the Professional Development Framework for Digital Learning.  

Since Framework for Digital Learning was adopted, the line department has set up Provincial Core Training Teams in all nine provinces.

Working with our local and international partners we are pursuing ways to ensure a balanced approach to the teaching of numeracy and Mathematics as evident in the Department of Basic Education recently developed Framework for Teaching Mathematics with Understanding.

The new Mathematics Framework overhauls the South African pedagogical-content knowledge outlook in Mathematics thus reinvigorating the teaching of Mathematics in its entirety – from classrooms learning practices, content, teaching, and assessments.

The Mathematics Framework supports the key activities of the Maths Science Technology (MST) Education Strategy (2019-2030).

The broad outline of the strategy is to ensure that every classroom is a space where quality learning and teaching takes place.

All these strategies coalesce so that our Mathematics teaching is in line with global trends and emerging pedagogics.

In this regard, we intend to capacitate all our Mathematics teachers so that their competencies are fit for purpose of a changing world.

We are already building capacity for Mathematics Teachers in the Foundation Phase (FP) through accredited university courses.

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. 

Our country needs to undergo a skills revolution to break the cycle of poverty and grow an inclusive economy. 

To this end, we have finalised the Concept Paper to strengthen the Three-Stream Curriculum Model that will offer our learners a choice of learning streams that best suit their capabilities.

We will intensify our efforts of improving the quality of teaching and the status of the teaching profession.

We are also doubling our efforts in the area of teacher professionalism, continued learning programmes including leadership and school based management.

As part of a package of interventions to accelerate education progress in our country, we remain committed to successfully delivering a two-year universal and compulsory Early Childhood Education.

Since we announced the function shift of the Early Childhood Development function from the Social Development to the Basic Education, much work has been done, and it continues unabated.

There is no better way to start building the future we imagined than to focus on the Early Learning. By its very nature early childhood education is the foundation for cognitive development.

We invite our bright young minds to enter this noble profession and continue to build our country.

Since its inception in 2007 to 2018, the Funza Lushaka Bursary, a multi-year programme to promote teaching as a profession, we have awarded a whopping 134 211 bursaries at a cost of over eight billion rands.

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.  Please, we urge you to lead by example, take these training opportunities, and become the personification of the life-long learner.

In 2019 alone, we offered initial training to 72,000 teachers on emerging areas of specialisation such as Coding pedagogy with one of the prestigious and largest universities on this continent, the University of South Africa (UNISA). 

As you may recall Coding as a subject is being be piloted at 1,000 schools across five provinces this year. Plans are also afoot to introduce a Robotics curriculum from Grade R-9 in not so distant a future.

In conclusion, as a country we are immensely grateful to all our teachers, learners, teacher unions, principals, parents, School Governing Bodies (SGBs), our strategic partners at home and abroad  for working collectively with us to take our basic education to the next level.

I thank you.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 2/26/2020
Number of Views: 1022

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