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Speech at the 15th Commonwealth Council for Education Ministers (CCEM) Mid-term Review Meeting for the Africa Region, 14 November, Minister Naledi Pan speeches



14 November 2005


It is an honour to address distinguished ministers and officials.

The subject of this session is very important because non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and organs of civil society have made significant contributions to change processes and progressive development in many developing countries.

In South Africa, under apartheid, NGOs and civil society organizations formed the advance guard in the fight against racial oppression and denial of opportunities.

Churches, NGOs, unions and civics took up the issues of the people oppressed under apartheid; it was these structures that empowered the people; and it was these structures that provided development support to the people.

They were the incubators of democratic practice and culture in South Africa. Street-block-area committees, literacy organizations, bursary organizations, the UDF - all of these played a role in ending apartheid. The churches and other religious bodies played a central role as well. They showed people that they could take control of their own affairs and be a force to be reckoned with.
NGOs and education

Churches, NGOs, unions and civic mass based organizations have played a vital role in promoting education opportunity and quality education. Many innovations that led to student success for the oppressed majority tended to be NGO-led initiatives.

Democracy has opened up new avenues and activities for civil society. Many are now able to partner the democratic government. Others have had difficulties in taking on a post-democracy agenda and have failed to change their anti-establishment role.

A new model of civil society-state interaction has emerged since 1994.

First, NGOs continue to act as monitors of the public good and safeguard the interests of the disadvantaged sections of society. The performance of this social-watch role requires both transparency and accountability on the part of NGOs. They also draw attention to areas that government may be neglecting.

Second, NGOs assist in expanding access to social and economic services, and to education, to create jobs and eradicate poverty among the poorest of the poor.

Civil society and state now collaborate on joint projects. NGOs have been contracted by the state to assist in policy development, implementation and the delivery of services and education.

NGOs are adapting to the new environment by stressing businesslike methods, and are contributing in various educational and training spheres, often as sub-contractors to government. Sometimes these contributions are in important areas that government cannot tackle alone or that government does not have the expertise to tackle.

An example is the challenging area of adult basic education and training (ABET).

Old and new NGOs have adapted to the new environment to become highly professional organisations, producing literacy materials and running courses for industry and for traditional community-based programmes.

The following illustrate how civil society and state now collaborate on joint projects and partnerships.

In 1992 the Joint Education Trust was a private sector initiative (a consortium of 20 leading companies) with a commitment of R500 million over five years. It supported more than 400 NGOs involved in early childhood development, youth development, adult education and training, and teacher development.

In 2000 it began a new life with a commitment of R650 million from local and offshore donors.

It has provided key policy support to government. JET managed a project called Imbewu. The project was funded by the British Department for International Development (DfID) for an amount of R85 million. The project provided support to four levels of the Eastern Cape Department of Education - provincial, district, school and classroom - working directly with 523 primary schools in 22 districts.

A prominent component of the project was an external evaluation conducted at the baseline, mid-term and final stages.

Another example of a civil society and state partnership is the Business Trust. It was set up in 1999, supported by 145 companies and funded to the tune of R1 billion (voluntary basis of 0.15 of market capitalization). It was a five-year initiative with a focus on human capacity development, job creation through tourism and crime reduction.

When its mandate ended, it entered into a second cycle with the objective of combining business and government resources in areas of common interest, particularly around enterprises, the unemployed and communities in need of rehabilitation.

The Business Trust focused on reading at the primary school level, enhancing quality at the secondary school level, and improving the effectiveness at the further education level. The Trust education projects have taken the business contribution from sporadic, pilot projects on the periphery of the system to large-scale programmes integral to the process of system development.

The primary school reading programme takes the business contribution to a new scale working with education departments in nine provinces and benefiting a million pupils (we have around 12 million pupils in schools, a million in each grade).

The secondary school programme has developed a set of system-wide interventions at district, school and class-room level. And the further education programme focusing on technical colleges is directed at the reconstruction of an entire education sub-system.

So the contribution of NGOs to education is welcome and focused.

Universal primary education

UNESCO’s EFA Global Monitoring Report for 2005 acknowledges that, “massive educational deprivation continues to be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa”.

Despite country reports of progress, it is clear an extraordinary effort will be required to ensure that all countries are directly assisted to succeed.

South Africa’s EFA monitoring report points to positive progress. We have reached universal primary enrolment, and have enrolment rates of nearly 90% in our secondary schools. We have achieved gender parity; in fact girls now constitute a majority in our secondary schools.

For some time now we have been talking up South African exceptionalism in this regard. Whereas girls appear to drop out of school more readily in the rest of Africa, we in South Africa were pleased to find that we did not fit the trend. South Africa has more girls in secondary school than boys, although there tend to be more boys in primary school than girls.

Our country has begun to examine the phenomenon more closely, because of associated worrying trends: illiteracy levels among young men, crime levels of youth, and large numbers of young black males in low-skills employment. Education researchers have joined the Department in seeking answers to these emerging challenges. Early findings point to family pressure for income from boys and availability of low-level jobs for boys.

Our national attention to girls success and female empowerment may offer further clues.

Strangely though, as we probe, it now turns out that we may not have that many more girls in our schooling system as we thought. Recent studies have shown that boys are not dropping out of the system more easily than girls. Instead boys are flowing through the system more slowly than girls. Boys are repeating grades more frequently than girls. Boys are dropping out of school and then back into school.

The main reason boys drop out, after the period of compulsory schooling (ages 7 to 15) is to earn money for their families.

The main reason girls drop out in the similar age group is pregnancy.

These findings reflect the factual position in much of Africa.

Research NGOs are assisting us in exploring these issues and in identifying remedies. We also intend to work with other countries on the continent to share experience and identify responses. It is clear that responses must address social needs of families and the national imperative of educating our youth. We are keen to pursue partnerships in these areas because of problems we have in common.

We believe the Commonwealth must be supported to do more to strengthen system and implementation capacity in countries that are still to achieve the EFA goals.

It is also clear that we have now reached a stage where we must move beyond the minimal goals of EFA. Effective technical and vocational education, and knowledge production through higher education are vital if our countries and our people are not to remain trapped in a cycle of poverty, of underdevelopment, and dependence.

As South Africa and Africa finds it way into the global arena, we will need every bit of effort and support to ensure continued progress. As world forums like the Commonwealth restructure, we must ensure a better place for Africa. The conditions of governance in most African countries are now highly conducive to making good use of any support from the international community to ensure that the people benefit.

Solidarity is an old-fashioned word, but its meaning and significance has not diminished. Let us draw on the common wealth of our nations to ensure that the poor, the vulnerable and the excluded receive their fair share, as we begin to create a new world order, based on compassion and caring. South Africa has provided but a small example of how difference can be celebrated as strength, and how a new nation can be constructed from many parts.

Chairperson and Ministers, I invite you all to join us on this wonderful and exciting social project, and thank you for allowing us to share this with you.

Speech by Minister of Education, N Pandor, at the 15th Commonwealth Council for Education Ministers (CCEM) Mid-term Review Meeting for the Africa Region, Cyprus, Malta, and the United Kingdom, in Freetown, Sierra Leone
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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 711

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