“The struggle towards free, compulsory & dynamic education until tertiary level”
Members of the National Leadership of COSAS;
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is refreshing for me as Minister of Basic Education to rub shoulders with the young lions of a democratic South Africa. The Congress of South African Students (COSAS) earned its proud reputation in the jungle of struggle. Since its formation in 1979; COSAS has been at the forefront of demanding and fighting for a better and quality education for the African child in particular and all South African children in general. It is this mission that drives the young lions of COSAS. This mission remains work in progress hence the continued relevance and importance of COSAS. You are indeed a beacon of hope; a shining light for the future generations to come. You represent through deeds and discipline a promise that future leaders of society will be drawn from this cohort of young lions. We are indeed proud of you. We marvel at your achievements as you celebrate your 35th birthday. We take solace in the knowledge that our country will in future indeed be in your safe and capable hands.
As a country, we believe that we need you. We need an organised formation of young people to champion their interest. You must refuse ready-made solutions that come from above. You must insist that there shall be nothing about young people without the participation of young people.
This brings me to the matter you raised about the publication of National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination results in the media displaying learner’s name, surname and results. We have listened to your concerns that the publication of personal details adds immense pressure on the learners resulting in some committing suicide. We have resolved that the NSC examination results will still be published in newspapers but that the identity of the learners would be protected and therefore the names of the candidates won’t be published, only the examination number will be used. This measure is intended to protect candidates that might fail from responding adversely to the publication of their results in the newspapers.
Comrade President; when I accepted the invitation to come and address this important congress, I pondered what is the singular challenge facing young people today. We know the country faces the quadruple challenges of poverty, unemployment, inequality and corruption.
In his address to this august congress in December 1995, the late founding father of our democracy uTata Nelson Mandela identified clearly the challenges that faced the 1995 generation. President Mandela said: “One of the most critical challenges is encouraging young people to choose careers which promote the strategic goals of the nation. Our main weakness is not merely in the natural sciences; but also that we might end up with many university graduates especially in the humanities, but with a shortage of the skills needed to build houses and roads, to design machines and operate them, to plan cities and to build and service computers.” He went to list what he considered the triple challenges of the time – These were:
· Firstly, criminal action in the form of violence against teachers and students, and the sale and taking of drugs.
· Secondly, sexual harassment and child abuse which is scarring many young people.
· Thirdly, the spread among youth and the rest of society of the AIDS virus.
He urged COSAS, along with teachers and parents that they should play a leading role in ensuring public awareness and co-operation with the police to rid our schools of these scourges.
I am at pains to think of any other more poignant diagnoses of the critical ills that affect young people today that will be radically different to the challenges identified by uTata in 1995. Perhaps, the only addition could be that of the twin evils of teenage pregnancies and HIV. The schooling sector is confronted with a significant number of teenage learners who fall pregnant with one in five teenage pregnant girls being infected with HIV. And, research shows that there is a downward trend in new infections except in the category of young girls. It is reported that 40 - 50% of new infections occur amongst young people. There is abundant evidence of the burden that teenage pregnancy and HIV amongst young people is placing on the health, education and economic systems of the country. According to the 2008 Youth Risk Behaviour Survey, 37% of our grade 8-11 learners are sexually active. In addition, the 2011 School Annual Survey reported that 36 702 pregnant adolescents attended school in South Africa in 2010. The HSRC HIV Prevalence Survey data shows that in 2008, 2.5% of girls and 3% of boys aged 2 – 14 years were HIV positive and that 6.7% of girls and 2.5% of boys aged 15 – 19 were HIV positive.
Delegates don’t despair that challenges identified 19 years ago continue to beset South Africa even today. Unfortunately, these are ongoing challenges that not only confront young people but society at large.
For our part as the Government we have developed a package of interventions under the Integrated School Health Programme (ISHP). The Integrated School Health Programme is a joint initiative of the Departments of Basic Education, Health and Social Development. The aim of the Programme is to improve children’s health, reduce health barriers to learning and assist learners to stay in school and perform to the best of their abilities. The Programme further intends to promote attitudes and behaviours that will positively impact the current and future health status of learners. Overall the programme is designed to improve both the education performance and the health and well-being of our children. It seeks to address a range of health and social challenges that are faced by young people especially related to sexual and reproductive health. This holistic response appraises, protects, and improves the health of learners, with the goal of reducing absenteeism and increasing academic achievement and ultimately the quality of basic education. We hope to engage further with the new leadership so as to consult and galvanise support for successful implementation.
Chairperson other than the gloomy picture painted above with regard to the challenges on our hands, there is a room for optimism. We do indeed have a Good Story to tell.
South Africa is a different country today than it was in 1995. We have made progress towards universal coverage of school going children. We have made progress in the introduction of Early Childhood Development. We have progressively worked towards eliminating mud schools and inappropriate school structures, replacing them with state of the art buildings, especially in historically neglected areas. Our anti-poverty strategies include the expansion of school nutrition programmes in both primary and secondary schools. We have recorded significant milestones towards free education through fee-exemption programmes. We have made progress by steadily and emphatically improving Matric results. We have registered massive strides in a war against HIV/Aids.
Sadly, we seem to be fighting a losing battle against teenage pregnancies, alcohol and drug abuse. These societal ills remain an albatross around the neck of a changing nation for the better. We must remain vigilant. We must not lower our guard. We dare not fail to tackle the scourge of teenage pregnancies, drugs and alcoholism among young people. It is our collective responsibility as leaders, mothers, fathers, teachers, and society at large to ensure that we succeed.
Chairperson, allow me to turn my attention to the theme of the conference – “The struggle towards free, compulsory & dynamic education until tertiary level.”
The question is where we are in relation to the provision of free and compulsory education for our young people. Let me share a good story with you. In Basic Education, we continue to open the doors of learning and culture with high levels of participation at 99% enrolment in compulsory basic education. 86% of our schools have been declared no-fee schools, and over 9 million learners enrolled in no-fee schools are fed at school through the National School Nutrition Programme. Through the pro-poor package we will achieve more than R8 billion funding for non-fee paying schools to ensure that no child is left behind because of poverty. The per-learner amount for 2014 alone is R1, 059.00 for non-fee schools. Comrades, more has been done but much more needs to done to truly say all doors of learning and culture are opened.
Apart from major strides we have recorded towards free education, there is also a social revolution taking place all over the country that is set to transform the lives of thousands of South African children. At the dawn of majority rule, South Africa inherited a large number of schools in all provinces without water, sanitation and electricity, the bulk of the challenge being in the Eastern Cape. The Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) is precisely what its name suggests; an ongoing yet accelerated programme to implement basic safety norms and standards in school infrastructure in the democratic and modern era of South Africa.
Since the launch of ASIDI 89 new state-of-the-art schools have been completed in the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State and Western Cape.
ASIDI is an R8.2-billion initiative, one of the Government's Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs). The grand idea is to replace some 510 schools in the country built from inappropriate materials. We also intend to provide water and sanitation to 1 257 schools and electricity to 878 schools. Just to give you a snapshot on progress of our Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) programme.
During the initial year of the programme in 2011/12 we rolled out 49 schools in the Eastern Cape. I am happy to report that all 49 schools have been completed and handed over to the jubilant communities.
During the 2012/13 – we started the roll out of 140 schools and the progress is as follows:
· 29 schools completed in the Eastern Cape to date
· Seven schools completed in the Western Cape to date
· Three schools completed in Mpumalanga to date
The balance of remaining schools is at the different stages of implementation.
In the current financial year 2014/15, we are rolling out 150 schools. Progress is as follows:
· 99 schools are in the implementation phase, Framework agreements are in place for the balance.
· 78 of 99 schools are at the design stage in the Eastern Cape.
· 9 of 99 schools are at the stage of planning and
· One of 99 schools is at design stage in the Free State.
· 11 of 99 schools are at different phases of construction in the Western Cape
The overall count reads in 2014 as follows:
· Schools: 89 schools completed
· Sanitation: 351 schools have been provided with sanitation and another 249 schools are at various stages of procurement of contractors and construction. 23 projects were completed in the current reporting period.
· Water: 318 schools have been provided with water, 739 schools are at various stages of procurement of contractors and construction. 27 projects were completed in the current reporting period.
· Electricity: 279 schools have been provided with water, 260 schools are at various stages of procurement of contractors and construction. 10 projects were completed in the current reporting period.
Chairperson, allow me to turn my attention to what Madiba called - choosing careers which promote the strategic goals of the nation. Let me share with you what we are doing in this area to ensure that young people have a fighting chance in non-traditional careers out of the comfort zone of humanities.
One of the long-term radical shifts in the offering of Mathematics, Science and Technology is the mooted discontinuation of the Dinaledi and Technical Schools’ grants. The Dinaledi Schools’ grant offered schools extra resources to focus on Maths and Physical Sciences. One motivating factor for discontinuation is that the Dinaledi School Grant was not system wide – it only covered 500 hand-picked schools. Secondly, the Dinaledi Schools’ Grant has been funding the Grades 10 – 12 Mathematics and Physical Sciences without offering any support to the Grade 8 and 9 Mathematics and Natural Sciences.
Equally the Technical Schools’ grant also had limited impact - supporting 200 of the 1007 schools offering technical subjects. The proposal on table that has already been endorsed by the Council of Education Ministers is to consolidate the two grants into a new Maths, Science and Technology Schools Improvement Grant. Negotiations with Treasury to reconfigure these grants are at an advance level. The grand idea is that the new grant will cover all schools. We have also made a determination that all schools must offer some type of Mathematics to their learners. A survey is currently underway to determine the number of schools not offering any Maths at all. By 2015, we want all learners in all schools to be exposed to some type of Mathematics at an early age.
In conclusion, you will be pleased to know that as a sector we have resolved that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is to be one of key priority for the sector to act as an anchor for the radical transformation of the basic education. We have come to the determination within the sector that ICT is crucial to improve the quality and efficiency of the system from a number of aspects including administration, e-learning and teacher training. An interdepartmental team is in place led by the Presidency and the main objective is to ensure that by 2019 all schools are ICT enabled and compliant.
Therefore, your congress, Chairperson, will be critical in shaping the future of our country that will characterised by ICT adoption and implementation. I take this opportunity to wish you and all delegates successful deliberations. We once again salute you, the Young Lions of a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.
I thank you