Deputy Minister of Basic Education
Members of the Basic Education Portfolio Committee present
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Local and International partners
Provincial Heads of Education Departments
DBE Senior managers and staff
Fellow South Africans
It is with the greatest of honour that I speak at this 7th National Education Excellence Awards.
Let me take this opportunity to welcome all of you to the glitz and glamour of the 2020 National Education Excellence Awards.
This is an important gathering in the calendar of Basic Education family as we converge here today to celebrate the exploits of excellent districts and schools.
These districts carry the whole system on their shoulders, and thus hopes and aspirations of their schools and communities higher every year.
It is an excellent gesture for a large and complex system such as ours to celebrate the gallant efforts of a select few amongst its structures such as districts and schools.
These awards provide us with an important opportunity to shout over the rooftops about sustained excellence in our basic education system focusing on districts and schools.
Programme Director, these awards aren’t two minutes noodles. We look at the continuum of time, and spots where excellence has become a habit, these are only winners today.
As the Ministry of Basic Education, we value high achievers and hold them in high regard.
Both districts and schools are indeed a vital cog in the overall management of the public schooling system.
You certainly make our work as politicians bar insults and scorn worthwhile.
You are a living proof of the wise words of Ralph Marston: “Excellence…is not an act, but a habit.” What you do at district and school level, is what matters the most.
The nation put the future of our learners in your hands, and you delivered.
We applaud you for the great work you continue to do on a daily basis.
Let’s congratulate all district directors and school principals who are of course at the coalface of districts and schools.
You represents through deeds not words what it means to be a leader in the basic education sector.
All of you presented here are already winners even if you don’t take home any silverware.
These awards are the most difficult to emerge as a winner because, akufakwana.
Your once off good performance doesn’t cut it. We only honour those who have made excellence a habit.
That’s why even nominees must be applauded. The fact that you managed to emerge from among the most stringent of selection criteria used means that you are no fluke.
To the ultimate winners, we say, go forth and conquer the world. Keep Up Your Excellent Work! Excellence is indeed a habit worth emulating.
I extend my gratitude to the senior mandarins in the basic education sector such as the DG, Heads of Provincial Education Departments for the ‘package of support and interventions’ to make sure that officials and all learners are supported to perform at their optimum level.
We are beginning to see the positive spin offs of the focused roadshows and interventions of working together with provinces.
We converge here today to say, ‘Thank You’ all for your hard work.
These awards play an important part in boosting morale, and shining the spotlight on best teaching practices where in matters the most, districts and schools.
The winning cohort of districts and schools become the shorthand for excellence in the public schooling sector.
We salute our winning districts and schools. You’re are the body and pride of our nation.
As we should know, districts maketh the education system. Without functioning districts, there can be no schools that can serve as centers of academic excellence.
We have just hosted the 20th National Teachers’ Awards in Pretoria recently.
As you know outstanding teachers and school leaders are recognized for their unwavering commitment to deliver quality public education for all.
Teachers remain a vital cog in our education system without which no human development can be complete.
Speaking at the 20th National Teachers’ Awards, Minister in the Presidency, Mr. Jackson Mthembu underscored an important point that as a country, we are very proud of all our teachers’ relentless pursuit of teaching excellence.
This, he added is amidst unfavourable conditions such as resource constraints, violent protests in their communities, the prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse, and other such social ills.
It is clear as blue sky that awards for teaching excellence inculcates in teachers the will to succeed, it builds resilience, and a desire to shine.
Hopefully the winning mentality on display today will be ingrained into the wider body of the teaching cohort throughout the basic education system.
We converge here not only at the first term of the year, the first new school term, but at the dawn of a new decade.
We converge here to celebrate a human endeavour that has long lasting impact not only on the life of top districts and schools but society as a whole.
Education is the single most weapon against poverty.
High performing education systems around the world are known for powering their nations to faster economic growth, lessen the burden of diseases, cementing democracy, and achieving better living conditions for society.
As we enter the last decade of Vision 2030, the National Development Plan (NDP), let us even more clearly define a South Africa we want, and agree on the concrete actions we need to achieve them.
I am partial to the transformative effects of basic education hence I believe it should lead out of recession inducing policy framework.
As a country we have just marked 30 years since the release of former President Nelson Mandela from the Victor Verster apartheid prison, and the unbanning of political organisations including the governing party, the ANC.
In remembering this momentous occasion, we have to ask whether we are carrying the hopes, wishes and dreams of Madiba in our daily conduct.
We must say never ever again shall it be that the levers of state power are used to subjugate others.
Instead, state power must be exercised solely for the benefit of the public.
We need to return to servant leadership of Mandela and his finest generation of freedom fighters.
Despite a subdued trading environment and stagnate economic growth, this nascent democracy has been a boon for the basic education sector.
We have achieved the historic demand of the Freedom Charter which turns 65 years to open the doors of learning to all.
Our world renowned Constitution which turns 24 years this year, guarantees free and compulsory basic education for all.
Further, our Constitution fortifies our long cherished dream for a society based on fundamental principles of basic human rights, rule of law and universal adult suffrage.
Programme Director, once again, I must congratulate all nominees and winners today.
Teaching as we know is a foundational skill. Some correctly argue that it is a mother of all professions.
We thank yet again all district directors and school principals for dedicating all their professional time and beyond for the benefit of our young people.
The recent matric results that registered an impressive and historic 81.3% pass rate mustn’t lull us into complacency.
We urge all district directors and school principals to redouble their efforts in the area of self-advancement and continuous learning.
We have a wide range of opportunities for self-advancement and professional development. These include new areas of specialisation such as Coding and Robotics.
We have come a long way in recognising and rewarding excellence in the sector. Every time we gather in this auspicious occasion is a stark reminder that ours is indeed a system on the rise.
We no longer speak of ‘pocket of excellence’ that exist in the system, but an emerging trend of education excellence sustained over time.
Despite the slowing infrastructure investment and other prevailing challenges such as social ills, we have emerged from the doldrums of yesteryears.
Our basic education is a now a system on the rise. We are beginning to register irreversible gains around policy certainty, stable curriculum, and equity amongst others.
Thus, there is no need to despair. Yet, it’s too soon to open the proverbial champagne bottle.
It is true that our basic education has entered its own season of hope, though challenges abound.
As we move to tackle the prevailing challenges such as increased level of schools violence, including the country’s bugbear gender based violence, drug and alcohol abuse, there’s no need to point fingers.
More than any other time in our nascent democracy, this is the time for us to pull together for the sake of our learners and country’s future. Working together, we shall overcome.
The fact that you managed to emerge from among the stringent selection criteria used means that you are no fluke. To the ultimate winners, we say keep up the good work.
I wish to thank the DG and all provinces for the ‘package of support and interventions’ to make sure that officials and all learners are supported to perform at their optimum level. We are beginning to see the positive spin offs of the focused roadshows and interventions of working together with provinces.
In 2019, all the 75 districts, attained pass rates of 60% and above. Forty-five of the 75 districts (60%), attained pass rates of 80% and above. The performance of the districts during the 2019 NSC examinations is a testament that provinces are putting the shoulder to the wheel, to ensure quality teaching and learning outcomes across the system. No doubt, our system of basic education is indeed a system on the rise.
It is interesting to note that the ten top performing districts in the country have increased from only two provinces in 2018 to four in 2019. Four of the top ten districts performed beyond the 90% glass ceiling. Congratulations to Gauteng, Free State, North West and Northern Cape!
We also want to acknowledge the role played by the school principals in inducing a culture of teaching and learning in our schools.
It is because of you that we can celebrate our achievements today.
Please be assured of our support in tackling the persistent challenges that you have to contend with daily.
We are eternally grateful to your commitment and selflessness in educating our nation. Congratulations and well done!
On the health front - we have received many enquiries regarding our plans to deal with the coronavirus in schools.
We have redirected all the enquiries to the Department of Health that is leading the interventions regarding the management of all reported cases.
We take this opportunity to remind South Africans about the basic hygiene practices that involve the (1) regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. (2) Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. (3) Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. (4)Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority. (5) Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. That way, you are more likely to stay safe.
We have sent a Circular to all our schools to provide guidelines on what to do in terms of general hygiene standards. However, the Department of Health will communicate should any announcements be made specifically on the coronavirus.
The safety of our learners and teachers remains a priority in the sector.
In conclusion, I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to the sponsors and our development partners who have walked this road with us since we introduced the Education Excellence Awards.
We are indeed stronger together!
Finally, I convey my sincere gratitude to all MECs, Heads of Provincial Education Departments, basic education officials, district directors, school principals, teachers, parents and learners for being the champions of excellence.
You’re an important part of our success story.
Congratulations to everyone that will receive the Awards today. Well done!
I thank you.