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Address at the Opening of the Garden Route Primary School, 5 December 2005, Minister Naledi Pandor speeches

 

Address by Naledi Pandor, MP, Minister of Education, at the Opening of the Garden Route Primary School, Mossel Bay

5 December 2005

STANDING AT THE CROSSROADS

MEC Dugmore
Mr Mkhize (President and CEO, PetroSA)
Mayor Mr Carelse
Principal, Mrs Jeffreys
SGB members, parents, pupils

It is a pleasure to be here to share with you a moment of great importance, the formal opening of a new school.

I was invited to open two schools last year. This year I have already opened two and this will be a third.

Is this a sign of progress? Certainly, most of you will have heard the good news about new schools (1) in the Western Cape and about the new focus schools. (2) All these signify the concrete steps our government has taken to act on the objective of providing quality education for all. The added support of the corporate sector in not only contributing to education but in building a complete school is most welcome.

To build a community, build a school.

The state can build hospitals, community halls, community libraries, but what really brings a community together is a school. There is nothing like a school to focus a community on the road towards long-term civic improvement. Parents all want the best for the children; parents know that children need the best start in life, the best chance to do better than their generation.

We have a strong tradition of community involvement in schools. That involvement was given a new lease of life with the introduction of school governing bodies less than ten years ago. School governing bodies have infinitely more power than similar structures anywhere else in the world. Policies on admissions, on language use, and on staff appointments have given them the ability to either promote or to seriously frustrate our efforts to implement transformation. And yet despite these powers, the majority of schools produce poor results, learners who cannot read, write or count, and are dysfunctional and not deserving of the name school.

We face the challenge of examining our policies to ensure that SGBs promote the learning outcomes that are so urgently necessary.

The Garden Route Primary School governing body has shown the kind of proactive approach we need. It negotiated with the local authority for the land on which the school was built. The mayor, Mr Carelse, played an important role during these negotiations. I congratulate the governing body and the community and local government for its contribution to the establishment of this school. But that is not the end of the work that must be done.

In fact, your work is only beginning.

Parents must take an active interest in the school and in ensuring that your children do well at school. It is not enough to make sure that children attend school; parents need to be actively involved in the development of their children in all respects: intellectually, emotionally and physically. I say this, because there are too many schools in which parents play little or no role in managing schools or encouraging their children to make the best of their school lives.

Our government has often sent out the call of the vukuzenzele, of the contract between government and the people. Today you are signing that contract through being here to open and celebrate this school, this beginning.

The involvement of local government is an important development. Many of our councillors take very little interest in their local schools. I say to them today, a thriving school where young people learn to play sport, prepare to become Olympic champions, leading scientists and so on, is a sign of local and national pride. No council should tolerate a poor academic record in their community. And they should be sure children can read and do maths. They should present council academic awards, recognise and support excellence, honour outstanding teachers and root out pariah teachers who molest and abuse women and children.

Our democracy has seen many worthy signs of progress. We have laws for all, greater investment in education, we can all be what we want to be as long as we work hard. This new positive environment has proven difficult for many communities, especially the poorest in our society. This is why a school such as this is such a welcome addition to government efforts. The role of companies such as PetroSA is complementary to that of government. As stated earlier we now look to you to make the real difference.

A number of the challenges we face have been indicated by recent research reports. Tests in maths and science for high school learners indicate that internationally we are the worst in these subjects out of 49 countries that participate in the TIMMS study. South Africa performs much worse in these critical subjects than other middle-income countries. But even the better schools are not doing as well as they should in international comparison.

Moreover, the gap between the good and poor schools is still too wide in South Africa.

The reasons for this are both complex and simple - complex because social class is still an important determinant of success or failure in the South African education system, and simple in that evidence shows our schools are not teaching enough, not working hard enough, and not striving for excellence with vigour.

What more can we do to ensure that success or failure in school is not passed on from generation to generation, that our encouragement of quality also encourages mobility, that schools are able to unleash hidden potential?

I have just returned from a trip to China.

My reports in China that we are struggling to do well met with incredulity. There education is very competitive and intolerant of poor performance. We need some of that attitude; parents, the community and teachers are key to such an approach. Teachers must teach, children must learn. Full stop. Economic growth and poverty eradication can never succeed in a poorly functioning education system. Our time to change this scenario is fast running out. We must begin to succeed or be left behind by countries that are far more serious about learning and teaching.

As MEC Dugmore has said in several speeches this year, we have decided to invest in quality. It is our intention to build a national system of education that provides our children with the basic academic skills in reading, writing and counting that are so essential to a good education. Petro-SA is helping us to do just that. You, the parents, can help us achieve these goals, work with the teachers, ensure your children are disciplined and make full use of their chance at quality education. Assist us in moving the South African system towards greater equity.

Our commitment is to all our schools and our aim to provide a quality education for all our children.

We stand at the crossroads of a fundamental transformation for the better in our schooling system, particularly in those communities where pupils benefit from school meals.

For too long the complaint has been that our better schools have succeeded under our constitutional democracy and that schools in deprived communities have not.

This is about to change as we rethink and resource our poorer schools.

It is not difficult to conclude that a few basic improvements, such as having all teachers in the class teaching during lesson time, supplying appropriate learning and teaching materials timeously, the introduction of a reading, writing and numeracy strategy, ensuring pupils feel safe and prosecuting perpetrators of violence on school property would lead to dramatic improvements in results.

So parents I hope and trust that you will continue to play an important role in the future of this school.

I hope and trust that learners and teachers will appreciate the gift of new facilities and use them to the best advantage.

I hope and trust, Mrs Jeffreys that you as principal of this school recognise the enormous responsibility that rests on your shoulders. I wish you well.

MEC Dugmore, you have established an excellent partnership with PetroSA that has born in fruit in the provision of facilities, furniture, computers and other equipment - a word of thanks to PetroSA.

This is a memorable day for the community of Mossel Bay and it is indeed a great pleasure for me to be part of this celebration of opening a new school.

In closing, I would like to wish the community, the parents, learners and teachers of this school even greater success in their partnership for transformation through education.

(1) “OUR VISION of a learning home for all, will be taken forward boldly with the occupation of 14 new schools from the beginning of next year; the growth of 292 teacher posts in the basket of posts; the introduction of the new National Curriculum Statement (NCS); the completion of the process of installing computer laboratories in all high schools in the Western Cape; and the introduction of about 500 Teacher Assistants.” WCED press release 23 November 2005
(2) “TWENTY-EIGHT SCHOOLS from historically disadvantaged communities will be transformed into” Focus Schools “over the next three years, specialising in Arts & Culture; Business, Commerce and Management; and Engineering and Technology, as part of the introduction of the new National Curriculum Statement. R49-million has been allocated for the initial development of these schools in each of the seven education districts of the Western Cape.” 28 November 2005 WCED press release.

 

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 678

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