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Plenary speech, Education Laws Amendment Bill debate, National Assembly , 15 September 2005, Minister Naledi Pandor speeches

 

Plenary speech by the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, MP, Minister of Education, Education Laws Amendment Bill debate, National Assembly

15 September 2005

There are many outstanding challenges that we must still address by way of legislation in the education sector. The Education Laws Amendment Bill 2005 supports action on a number of important issues that confront the sector.

Honourable members will be aware that our President presents South Africa’s report on the Millennium Development Goals at the United Nations this week, and he will indicate positive progress on the education goals.

We have reached universal enrolment in primary level schooling; and, in fact, unlike many developing countries, we have very high enrolment rates of nearly 90% at the post-compulsory school level. Thus, in South Africa our promise of increased access to educational opportunities is being given firm practical effect.

Beyond universal access we have achieved equality of access for girls in our schools and are increasing our efforts at improving science and maths performance by female learners.

At the higher education level, females are the majority, and many of our adult education initiatives increasingly target and benefit women. All of you know that despite this positive progress there is still much to do.

This Bill introduces three important changes to current law in school education, changes that will assist us in promoting and accelerating positive progress.

The first change concerns school fees.

Honourable members will recall the 2003 cost of education study, which recommended several changes in the model of education financing. The findings of the report assisted the education Department in compiling an implementation plan directed at strengthening compulsory education.

The implementation plan said the following about free and compulsory education:

“Our most urgent goal is to ensure that no poor school should need to charge school fees owing to inadequate public funding. We believe that in the period 2004 to 2006 we can take major strides towards achieving this goal. Poor schools with improved public funding will have to provide sound reasons for continuing to charge school fees, in order for this to be approved. Our fee exemptions policy will be strengthened with the aim of ensuring that no parent should be charged school fees that are unaffordable.”

The most significant and revolutionary aspect of the Bill is that of the introduction of free education in schools located in our poorest communities. For the first time in South Africa we will be introducing no-fee schools. For the first time we will be relieving poor parents of the pain of having to search for money to fulfil their ambition of giving their children a good education.

For the first time we will be relieving poor parents of the embarrassment of being mocked and derided by school principals who refuse to make use of the exemption framework, even when it is patently clear that families are poor – the Bill also improves the administration and implementation of the fee-exemption policy.

We need to clearly state at the outset, honourable members, that it is not the intention of this law to restrict poor parents to no-fee schools. Children will still be able to attend any public school, and those in need of an exemption will still be able to apply for this.

In addition to declaring no-fee schools, we will also improve the funding norms that will determine the school funding allocation. Members are aware that often costs such as uniform, textbooks, stationery and other non-personnel, non-capital costs are prohibitive and pose a barrier to education for many children.
 
Our new funding norms and this Bill will steadily and surely erode that situation.

The Department is fully alert to the fact that we will have to do a great deal more to ensure no-fee schools do not become ghettoised into poor, low-performance schools.

The net effect of the Bill is that it improves funding for schools; and it creates the possibility for targeted interventions that enhance the quality of resources available for education and extra curricula activities.

The second change that the Bill introduces is support to schools in acting speedily against learners who are ill disciplined and who pose a threat to other learners, to teachers, or to the school.

Recently, as members will have read in the press, there have been horrifying examples of negative conduct by learners, and schools have been unable to act because our laws tended not to allow for action against severely disruptive learners.

Clearly not all matters of discipline can be addressed through legislation. Communities, parents and governing bodies will have to work closely together in devising strategies that promote positive values and disciplined conduct among learners.

I believe that we do need stronger action in our schools and this Bill will assist in this. We will also act on other areas of concern, such as preventing the carrying of weapons to and in schools and stronger collaboration with the police services in confronting criminals who make our schools their playground.
 
The third change provides for amendments to the current procedure for recommending candidates for employment as teachers.
 
The Bill maintains the important and necessary improvements that were made early in our democracy. The important role of school governing bodies in selecting quality candidates and recommending them for appointment to the provincial departments of education is maintained. This partnership between school governing bodies, the departments of education and professional teachers is essential to providing quality education to our children.

The change introduced by the Bill is that instead of recommending only one of the interviewed candidates, school governing bodies will be required to present three in order of preference.

This has been labelled a threat to the powers of the school governing bodies. It is not. School governing bodies will continue to short-list, to interview and to recommend. The difference is that, now, the head of department, as employer, will select the appointee from a list of three.

There are, of course, many people who believe that this government is crass and inadequate, who believe that it is in the interest of the head of departments to select unprofessional, incompetent candidates as teachers for our children.

These persons reject our resolve to promote unity in diversity at the school level in terms of both learners and employees.

This Bill assists us in addressing these important principles and in promoting the imperatives of our constitution. Any person who rejects this Bill will be admitting that they do not have the interests of our children or of quality education as part of the national agenda at heart.

 

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 791

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