Unite for Quality Education
General Secretary of Education International: Mr. Fred Leeuwen
Education International leadership
SADC Member States present
Organised Labour from SADTU, NAPTOSA and SAOU
Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here to march for the future of our children’s education. Our overriding premise is that every child, in every society, deserves Quality Education. To achieve such a feat requires unity of purpose in-order to realise Quality Education for all children in our lifetime.
In his first State of the Nation Address in 1994, our now late founding of the new South Africa President Nelson Mandela said: “everyone must re-inculcate the culture of learning and of teaching and make it possible for this culture to thrive”.
Similarly in his 2008, January 08 Statement, the then President of the Republic Thabo Mbeki said: “Education must be elevated from being a departmental issue, or even a government issue, to a societal issue – one that occupies the attention and energy of all our people”.
Making education a societal issue is at the heart of achieving the unity for the purposes of Quality Education.
Mbeki said education is fundamental to the achievements of the society envisaged in the Freedom Charter. Speaking about the importance of teachers he said: “Teachers are critical in our important task to ensuring quality education for all children.”
In his 2009 maiden State of the Nation Address President Jacob Zuma said: “Our teachers must commit to a set of non–negotiables i.e. to be in school on time, in class on time, teaching for at least seven hours, no abuse of learners and no neglect of duty.”
President Zuma added the government itself is committed to restore, uphold and promote the status of teaching by improving the remuneration of teachers as professionals and improving the conditions in which they work.
To demonstrate the seriousness on the importance of education President Zuma declared education an apex priority for the country. He has subsequently set up the commission to investigate the best remuneration policy for all our teachers.
On the other hand the ruling liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC) has been grappling with the issues of how best to improve our schooling system long before it came to power. It came as no surprise that the ANC in exile participated in the Education for All (EFA) campaign - an international initiative first launched in Jomtien, Thailand, in 1990 whose mission was to bring the benefits of education to “every citizen in every society.”
It became natural thereto that when this initiative was elevated to the level of UN agencies namely UNESCO, the ANC-led Government was among the first signatories to embrace the Education for All campaign.
The key to the Education for All is to ensure that quality is made accessible to all children. In South Africa this is already a Constitutional injunction. And, it fits nicely with other development targets such as the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
There are six specific education goals for the Education for All campaign – these are:
a) Expand and improve comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
b) Ensure that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, those in difficult circumstances, and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete, free, and compulsory primary education of good quality.
c) Ensure that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programs.
d) Achieve a 50 % improvement in adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.
e) Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education and achieve gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls' full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality.
f) Improve all aspects of the quality of education and ensure the excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.
Our new development blueprint, the National Development Plan (NDP) builds on this foundation, and it proclaims that: “Education, training and innovation are central to South Africa’s long-term development. They are core elements in eliminating poverty and reducing inequality, and the foundations of an equal society. Education empowers people to define their identity, take control of their lives, raise healthy families, take part confidently in developing a just society, and play an effective role in the politics and governance of their communities’.
However despite all milestones achieved towards Education for All, challenges remain. The 2009 Education for All South Africa Country Report expresses a deep concern in the performance of the education and training system. It contends that despite immense efforts and many tangible achievements the system is not yet serving the needs and expectations of the majority of the poor and vulnerable members of the South African society.
Towards Schooling 2025
To mitigate the conclusion of the 2009 Education for All South Africa Country Report, we have already developed a turn-around strategy dubbed Towards Schooling 2025. The plan sets measurable indicators and outcomes and also holds everyone in responsible positions, accountable.
Pillars of the plan - Towards Schooling 2025
The plan correctly named Towards Schooling 2025 envisages that by 2025 the following must have been achieved:
1) Learners who attend school every day and are on time because they want to come to school. Learners know that if they miss school some action is taken. These learners understand the importance of doing their schoolwork, in school and at home, and they know their school will do everything possible to get them to learn what they should. Much learning happens through the use of computers and from Grade 3 onwards all learners are computer literate. Part of the reason why learners want to come to school is because they get to meet new friends in an environment where everyone is respected, they will have a good meal, they know they can depend on their teachers for advice and guidance, and they are able to participate in sporting and cultural activities organised at the school during or after school hours.
2) Teachers, who have received the training they require, are continuously improving their capabilities and are confident in their profession. These teachers understand the importance of their profession for the development of the nation and do their utmost to give their learners a good educational start in life. They are on the whole satisfied with their jobs because their pay and conditions of service in general are decent and similar to what one would find in other professions.
3) A school principal who ensures that teaching in the school takes place as it should, according to the national curriculum, but who also understands his or her role as a leader whose responsibility is to promote harmony, creativity and a sound work ethic within the school community and beyond.
4) Parents who are well informed about what happens in the school, and receive regular reports about how well their children perform against clear standards that are shared by all schools. These parents know that if something is not happening as it should in the school, the principal or someone in the Department will listen to them and take steps to deal with any problems.
5) Learning and teaching materials are in abundance and of a high quality. The national Minimum Schoolbag policy, which is widely understood, describes the minimum quantity and quality of materials that every learners must have access to. Computers in the school are an important medium through which learners and teachers access information.
6) School facilities that are modern, functional, safe and well maintained. Learners and teachers look after their buildings and facilities because they take pride in their school.
To achieve the expectations of the plan Towards Schooling 2025, we have in South Africa something known as Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC) - a multi-stakeholder campaign, which underlines the importance of ‘teachers, textbooks and time’ in improving education. The ‘triple T’ of the the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign strives to bring into reality the delivery of quality learning and teaching through a collaborative effort between the political parties, Department of Education, Teacher Unions, Association of School Governing Bodies and school governing bodies, Parents, student organizations and learners, traditional leaders, business, communities groups, ELRC, professional bodies including SACE, subject-specific associations and other interested parties inside and outside the education domain.
QLTC envisages a situation where all inclusive QLTC structures will be established to monitor amongst other issues the enforcement of non-negotiable, pledges and other Departmental programmes being implemented. QLTC is striving to turn all our schools into centers of excellence. QLTC will over and above also monitor the basic functionality of schools anchored on the following pillars:
i. Code of conduct for teachers, learners and support staff.
ii. Procedures and mechanism of attending to absenteeism of learners, teachers and support staff.
iii. Sound leadership and management, governance and relationships.
iv. Curriculum roll out plan.
v. Provisioning of resources and learner achievement.
vi. Policies on school safety & security and enforcement of disciplinary procedures.
vii. Communication strategy with parents and communities.
viii. Teacher Development roll-out plan.
In conclusion let us unite as we do right now - there is no other way of celebrating the life of our international icon and struggle stalwart uTata Nelson Mandela other than unity of purpose to achieve a quality education for all children in our lifetime. We dare not fail.
I thank you!!!