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Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the NATU Teachers’ Day Celebration held at NATU’s Teacher’s Centre, Newcastle, 31 October 2020

Programme Director

NATU President: Mr S.A. Thompson

NATU General Secretary: C.S. Barnes

NATU’s Vice Presidents: Mrs B.Z. Mbatha, Mr R.N Ngcobo and Mr S.V. Malinga, and Mr G.M Mabuza

Leadership Collective of NATU and Members

Fraternal organisations present

Fellow South Africans


It is indeed a pleasure to address the 2020 National Teachers’ Union (NATU) Teachers’ Day Celebration.

From its humble beginnings of a few teachers being amongst the elite educated class at the time, the teacher union movement, including NATU, has grown from strength to strength.

NATU emerged as a union at a time when the foundation of segregated education was at its infancy, and the world engulfed in a needless war.

Nonetheless, black people had no civil rights in the land of their birth.

The foundations of apartheid had been planted in 1910 after successive wars with the colonising forces. 

Since late 1918, NATU has served many generations of unionised teachers, with the necessary vigour and without fear.

Today, the vast majority of our teachers use the services of a teacher union for bargaining as well as teacher development purposes.

Today, the teacher union movement is bigger than the taxi industry and boasts no less than 400 000 potential members.  

As we know, public service is the single largest employer of teachers in our country.

Almost 95 percent of school-going children in South Africa do so through public schooling.

The teacher union movement is, therefore, one of the most important partners in the basic education sector.

Teacher unions such as NATU are the glue that holds the centre together.

For instance, without the strong leadership exhibited by the NATU leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, our sector could have faced implosion.

This makes it all the more necessary that when you call on us, we respond in a far-reaching manner.

You’re not our adversaries but our partners for the growth of this vital sector.

As Government, we have used October, dubbed the Teachers’ Month to pay tribute to the unsung heroes and heroines: our teachers.

As we know, our teachers are at the coalface of the basic education delivery spending well over 200 days a year teaching our children.

Thus, the teacher union movement, such as NATU is the lifeblood of one of the most critical human capital in the public service.

Programme Director; yesterday, I addressed a national teachers’ seminar. At the symposium, I launched the TALIS 2018 Volume 2.  

According to the TALIS 2018 Volume 2 report, South Africa is one of the countries with the highest share of teachers who feel that their profession is valued in society across 48 TALIS countries.

As you might have heard a whopping 61% of our teachers “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement that their profession is valued in society.

This is the testament to the strong tradition of teacher union activism, of which NATU played a significant role.

This time around, we decided to be true to the 2020 Teacher’s Month theme of, ‘Working in Solidarity with Teachers during the COVID-19 Pandemic’ by going all-out to address various events in the honour of our own.  

In solidarity with our teachers, His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa announced far-reaching changes to the schooling set up in our country.

In his address to the recent Joint Sitting of the Houses of Parliament, President Ramaphosa announced that as part of the post-COVID-19- basic education social compact, we are going to further ease the administrative burden on the shoulders of our teachers.

Yes, the President said: we are creating 300,000 work opportunities for young people to be engaged as education and school assistants at public schools throughout the country.

The education and school assistants are to help teachers with basic and routine work so that more time is spent on teaching and enabling learners to catch up from time lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This initiative of engaging the teacher assistants is us as Government, walking the talk of the Teacher Appreciation Movement, in a far-reaching and meaningful way.

This education and school assistants are the proud legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic’s excellent management by this Government in partnership with our people. 

We remain mindful of the extra burden on our teachers having to teach in a completely new environment that doesn’t allow them to be close to their learners.

Some teachers had had to double up as health workers to save the academic year amid the COVID-19 mitigation measures. 

As a country, we are grateful to all our teachers for the sacrifices, and to NATU members and leaders for the stellar display of servant leadership during uncertain times.

In the same vein, we send our deepest condolences to those teachers, non-teaching staff and learners who have succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic and other ailments.

We salute our fallen heroes and heroines. Rest well, we shall see you in the morning!

Programme Director; we are seized with advanced plans to ease the burden that comes with teaching in the public schooling environment.

We are experimenting with ICTs (through the TeacherConnect App), and television supported tuition, especially for matrics through the innovative and partners’ driven programme, the Woza Matrics 2020 Catch up Campaign.

We urge all teachers and learners in the public schooling system to download this App and make use of it.

It has built-in COVID-19 screening capabilities (through HealthCheck, a National Department of Health platform).

In the main, it is a tool for both teaching and learning during the times of COVID-19 and beyond. 

I urge you to download the TeacherConnect App. It is available through the chat service, WhatsApp.

To access the App, teachers, parents and learners can save and interact with the TeacherConnect App on this number 060 060 3333 to conduct a health check and access other educational services as explained.

During the height of the pandemic, it became clear beyond our sector that public schooling is more than just about academic credits and accolades.

We emerged as a new frontier that provided other key developmental indicators such as health, nutrition and hygiene.

All these services are made possible through the support of the NATU members and beyond.

As part of the COVID-19 relief efforts, financial support is being provided to more than 100,000 early childhood development practitioners.

This investment in ECD practitioners is critical as we seek to relaunch, a new and reimagined early childhood development sector.

More than 40,000 vulnerable teaching posts in the fee-paying public schools are being secured through financial support because they recorded lower income from school fees than expected.

These relief efforts of saving vulnerable teaching posts is originally a proposal from one of our social partners.

Our commitment to saving these vulnerable teaching posts is thus a testament that we are in this together.

My plea is that we should work together today, tomorrow and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our country needs us. Our country values us.

We are more than the sum total of our professional ranks, work-related stress and heartache.

Teachers are nothing short of trailblazers and light-holders.

The resilience of our teachers, often working under less than ideal environments, is legendary.

The tenacity, creativity, compassion and patience of our teachers is unbelievable. In fact, these virtues come in bucket loads.

In our collective consciousness as a country, we know that without our teachers, especially the unionised cohort, we will stumble, fall, and the whole basic education system will collapse.

In the wake of the basic education’s fall, the levels of illiteracy will undoubtedly rise.

At the same time, our fledgling democracy may suffer irreparable damage.

As I have said before, public schooling is more than just chalk-and-duster, smart classrooms, or even diapers and lunch boxes.

Research shows that it is cheaper to keep a child in a public school than in a correctional service centre or prison.

For instance, in 2019, the cost of feeding just one prisoner stood at around R11 700 per month.

While education spending per learner per year stood at R16 000 on average by 2017 in public schools. 

Research has shown that democracy survives better in educated societies.

Higher levels of economic growth have been linked to higher levels of investment in public schooling that yields better learning outcomes.

Research in the US show that graduating from high school improves the quality of health, reduces dependence on the State by 60 percent, and cuts by six times the rate of alcohol abuse.

Researchers have long argued that education also plays a crucial role in the reduction of crime, improved public health, and greater political and civic engagement.

All these tremendous benefits of education manifest through the teaching profession, of which our teacher union, such as NATU plays a central role.

It is within this context that amid the COVID-19 pandemic and its dire effects on livelihoods and economy that we resolved to rescue the academic year.

During that difficult period, we relied on our teacher unions to provide leadership, and NATU did exceptionally well despite the pushback from other quarters.  

We, together with our teacher unions such as NATU, didn’t just save the 2020 academic year but a generation of learners from a potentially doomed future of life living with intellectual deficiencies.

Recent studies show that without rescuing the academic year and delivering catch programmes, the 2020 learner cohort would have faced learning deficiencies well into the year 2030.  

We remain mindful of the extra burden on our teachers having to teach in a completely new environment that doesn’t allow them to be close to their learners.

We are like the rest of the world doing everything humanly possible to support our teachers.

It is a new environment, and all of us are learning to coexist with the Coronavirus.

As a Department, we are ramping up our psychosocial support services to combat the heightened levels of stress and anxiety during these COVID-19 times and beyond.

In conclusion, let us celebrate our teachers every single day. Let us work together today, tomorrow and beyond COVID-19.  

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 11/5/2020
Number of Views: 1244

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