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Speech by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Gauteng Youth Month Celebrating 39th Anniversary of June, 16 Uprising held at Nasrec Expo Centre Johannesburg, 08 June 2015   


Programme Director

MEC for Gauteng Education Mr. Andrek Panyaza Lesufi

Gauteng Education Director-General

All Senior State Officials 

Leadership of young people

Learners and Teachers

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen   


Programme Director thank you for inviting me to this Youth Month gathering happening to coincide with the 39th anniversary of the historic events of June 16, 1976.


In the context of South Africa having celebrated its 21st birthday on 27 April this year, today’s theme, “Youth Moving South Africa Forward” is apt and befitting of a nation that has come of age. 


The date June 16, 1976 was a turning point in our people’s protracted struggle against the apartheid regime. The Youth of 1976 played an indelible role in the liberation of our country. Programme Director; we do indeed owe this golden generation an immeasurable debt of gratitude. They left behind a legacy of sacrifice, fearlessness, steadfastness, resilience and selflessness. We will forever remember this generation for sacrificing life and limb in pursuit of our freedom that we enjoy today.


Interestingly, I have been asked to reflect on use of language in education, promoting reading and the challenging landscape of publishing in the 21st century.


I am saying these topics are interesting because the main trigger of the 16 June 1976 Uprising was an attempt by the apartheid regime to force the use of Afrikaans on an equal basis with English as one of the languages of instruction in the Black/African secondary schools. The changes to the Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT) had been promulgated in 1974. The apartheid regime dictated that Afrikaans alongside English was made compulsory as a medium of instruction in schools.


Punt Janson, the Deputy Minister of then Bantu Education, was quoted as saying: “I have not consulted the African people on the language issue and I’m not going to. An African might find that ‘the big boss’ spoke only Afrikaans or spoke only English. It would be to his advantage to know both languages.”


At first it was the teachers who raised objections to the government announcement. Some Black teachers, who were members of the African Teachers Association of South Africa, complained that they were not fluent in Afrikaans. These objections fell on deaf ears.


However, young people refused to play dead and started organising. Afrikaans as a medium for education was deeply unpopular since Afrikaans was regarded by some as the language of the oppressor. It was against this background that on 30 April 1976, students at Orlando West Junior School in Soweto went on strike and boycotted classes. The student protest by Orlando Junior Secondary was among many student protests that erupted in Soweto, preceding the June 16 Soweto Uprising. The protests were the pupils’ expression of anger against Afrikaans language as medium instruction being enforced. The students drafted a memorandum to their principal whom they met with several times. Tirelessly they drew a letter to the regional director voicing out their views on the matter. In addition many other schools in the township protested against Afrikaans, as a medium of instruction. All these attempts failed dismally precipitating heightened anger among students across Soweto and ultimately throughout the country.   


On that fateful day Comrade Tsietsi Mashinini led the peaceful protest of between 3000 and 10 000 learners in Soweto, in what became known as the official June 16 Uprising. The move came after fervent mobilisation of learners by the South African Students Movement's Action Committee supported by the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). The march was meant to culminate at a rally in Orlando Stadium.


On their pathway they were met by the heavily armed apartheid police force that fired teargas and later live ammunition on demonstrating students.


During the commotion a 12 year old Hector Pieterson learner was shot dead and became the iconic image of the 1976 Soweto Uprising when a newspaper photograph by Sam Nzima - of the dying Hector being carried by a fellow student - was published around the world. Hector Pieterson was one of the first casualties of the 1976 uprising against the use of the Afrikaans language in schools. A post-mortem revealed that Pieterson was killed by a shot fired directly at him and not by a bullet 'ricocheting off the ground' as police claimed. Another learner, Hastings Ndlovu, is believed to have been the first child to be shot by police on that fateful day.


This resulted in a widespread revolt that turned into an uprising against the government. Three days after the 1976 Students' Uprising the Government banned 123 people for their involvement. The measure was accompanied by a nationwide ban on public meetings. These draconian measures failed to curtail mass action campaigns and the revolt spread across the country marking a turning point in the liberation struggle of South Africa.


In just 10 days of rioting, the official death toll was 174 Blacks and two Whites.  The number of wounded was 1,222 Blacks and six Whites. While 1,298 were arrested for offences ranging from attending illegal meetings, arson to terrorism and furthering the aims of banned organizations. While the uprising began in Soweto, it spread across the country and carried on until the following year. At the end of the protests approximately 566 schoolchildren had been brutally killed by the apartheid regime security forces.


The aftermath of the events of June 16 1976 had dire consequences for the Apartheid government. Images of the police firing on peacefully demonstrating students led an international revulsion against South Africa. Consequently, many young people left the country to swell the ranks of the Liberation Movements armed forces in exile. The African National Congress was the main beneficiary of this mass exodus leading to the strengthening of the people’s army, the MK.


I am reflecting on this game changing event of 16 June 1976 to make a point that the use of language in a learning environment is a highly an emotive issue. Language is an essential part of who we are. It is central to our individual identity, our personal concept of self, and our group identity. Almost 7,000 languages are spoken in the world today: the existence of different linguistic groups living in the same country is the norm rather than the exception. However a country’s linguistic diversity is rarely reflected in its school system. Africa’s foremost philosopher, revolutionary, and writer once said, “I ascribe a basic importance to the phenomenon of language. To speak means to be in a position to use certain syntax, to grasp the morphology of this or that language, but it means above all to assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization.”


Ladies and Gentlemen, this civilisation begins with our children learning in their own mother tongue so that they can be immersed through language in their own culture that must propel a new civilisation of South Africa, Africa and the global community at large.


It is for these reasons that as the Basic Education Department we have taken a conscious decision to incrementally introduce African Languages in our schooling system. The basic education sector is committed to strengthening all African Languages. In respect to this, the Incremental Introduction of African Languages (IIAL) is considered a priority to promote social cohesion. Hence our pilot programme which started in 2014 in selected Grade 1 classes will continue in 264 schools during 2015. Preparations are under way for the implementation of African Languages in 3558 schools across all provinces in January 2016.


Promotion of Reading


In pursuit of realising our long term goal i.e. “A Reading Nation is a Leading Nation,” earlier this year we convened a Reading Roundtable involving many educational stakeholders. We did this Programme Director because throughout the world, school education systems are focusing on literacy and numeracy initiatives as a means to improving the performance and learning outcomes. A learner’s ability to read, write and calculate is considered a vital toolkit in the pursuit of success and in managing life in general.

“Literacy is a key lever of change and a practical tool of empowerment on each of the three main pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social development and environmental protection,” said former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines reading literacy as “understanding, using, and reflecting on written texts, in order to achieve one’s goals, to develop one’s knowledge and potential, and to participate in society”.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Council (UNESCO) has declared literacy as a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Literacy is at the heart of basic Education For All international campaign, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy. The outcome of a good quality basic education is to equip learners with literacy skills for life and further learning.

Subsequent to the release of the National Education and Evaluation Unit (NEEDU) report on the State of Literacy Teaching in the Foundation Phase, the Ministerial Reading Audit Report and the 2011 Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study (PIRLS), I was convinced that the Sector needed to rejuvenate its reading initiatives hence, I declared Reading promotion and the Library and Information Services a national priority. Currently the following reading initiatives have been put in place:

  • Resuscitation of the “Drop All and Read” programme. In the early grades “Drop All and Read” is better known as the “Read me a Book” campaign;
  • The development of DBE Reading Series which is modeled along the same lines as the Workbook project.
  • This month 1000 schools offering Grades 1-3 are implementing the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA). The EGRA is an international benchmarked assessment which assesses reading proficiency through letter sound recognition, word recognition and passage reading;
  • The Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) gives high weighting to reading and writing skills in Grades R to 12;
  • In addition the National Reading Plan prescribes the implementation of Reading Norms for Grades R-12.


Programme Director to cement our commitment to making reading fashionable, in July this year we intend to launch the first phase of our groundbreaking programme of the establishment of 1000 fully functional school libraries per year until 2019.  Going forward there is a huge body of research that concludes that the main thrust of literacy development is the promotion of a school-wide reading culture which encourages learners to become engaged and motivated readers.


I appeal to young people here to make reading fashionable. We are encouraging all communities, and in particular the youth, to donate time, books, and even space as well as basic furniture and shelving to support reading in schools in their communities. Under the theme of, “A reading nation is a winning nation,” we are making a clarion call to all South Africans to take up this challenge of accelerating the reading revolution by donating books/forming reading clubs/reading to their children as part of the International Nelson Mandela Day this year. 


Publishing Landscape

One of the key recommendations of the Ministerial Task Team for Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM) constituted in February 2010 was for the reconfiguring of the role of government and private companies in the LTSM provision space. In this regard a system of nationally centralised ordering of LTSM was recommended. The Ministerial Task Team’s sub-recommendations included that DBE shall be provided with sufficient information for decision-making in-order to ensure decentralised delivery and tracking systems. 

Transformation in the Publishing Industry

The department has done an analysis of who benefits the most in the current procurement process through the National Catalogue. The analysis indicates a few publishing companies have dominated the LTSM space procurement for all Grades.

It is very unfortunate that the Grade 1 - 12 catalogues did not favour small South African Publishing companies. The department has learnt from these mistakes and we are about to be correct them.

We have worked extremely hard over the years to positively change the learning and teaching landscape in South Africa in a quest to deliver state funded quality education in our lifetime. As a result of our relentless efforts, we can proudly say we have successful provided near universal access to learning and teaching material. We are convinced that LTSM is at the centre of quality learning and teaching.

The Department has also recently developed the South African Sign Language Catalogue. As recommended by the Ministerial Task Team regarding the development of LTSM, the Department has over the years developed its own textbooks for certain subjects and grades in collaboration with Siyavula and Sasol Inzalo. These materials were electronically made available for provinces to print, and be delivered to schools.

In addition to the LTSM already procured over the years, the DBE has developed a plan for the State to develop, print and deliver its own textbooks to schools. Textbooks to be developed by the State in the near future are not limited to certain grades.

The DBE commissioned the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to provide an external evaluation of the workbooks and Grade 10 Mathematics and Physical Sciences textbooks. ACER’s 2013 report was extremely positive about the quality of the resources, and their actual use.

a)      In the future, the DBE will continue to develop more State produced textbooks.

b)      Over and above the development of textbooks, the DBE has since 2011 been developing, printing and distributing Grades 1 – 9 workbooks to schools. Subsequently, the department has expanded the workbooks project to Grade R. For the 2015 academic year, a total of 56 million workbooks were printed and delivered to 23 760 schools.

c)      To support learners with visual impairment in the absence of Braille textbooks, the DBE also adapted Workbooks to Braille. These have been printed and delivered to the 22 special schools. The Braille Workbooks are for Grades 1 – 6 Mathematics and Mathematics toolkits, Home language in all 11 official languages, and Grades 1 – 3 Home language toolkits. The Department is currently adapting Grades 7 – 9 Mathematics Workbooks to Braille.

The Move Towards a Core Textbook Per-Subject Per-Grade

At its 2012 Mangaung National Conference, the African National Congress (ANC) agreed to “adopt a centralized approach in the procurement of textbooks, stationery and other teaching materials”. The ANC resolved further to provide “uniform and standardised textbooks ... to all learners across the system”. The move towards core textbooks per-subject per-grade also finds expression in the National Development Plan: Vision for 2030. And, it has already been agreed to by Council of Education Ministers (CEM) as part of the sector plan.


This resolution triggered a fury of fears that many publishing companies will close and thousands of jobs will be lost. These claims are unfounded because the number of textbooks to be printed would be the same regardless of the number of titles listed in the National Catalogue. The availability of multiple copies of textbooks provides teachers with the opportunity to choose the language level and approach that they feel is most appropriate to their school/classes. Teachers “need a variety of knowledge sources” for teaching. The campaigners against the new approach must also take note that the department is well aware that some of the printing is done outside of the country.


Learners have traditionally been using one core textbook and will continue to do so. However, this does not mean that a leaner will use only one textbook, but would rather have supplementary materials. This effectively means that the DBEs plan is misunderstood and we hope to  allay some fears within the affected stakeholders.

Over and above the provision of one core textbook, the department is striving towards ensuring that there are enough supplementary and reference material to support the leaners.  The DBE will still develop a catalogue for supplementary and reference material.

The worry is also deepened by the fact that no mention is made regarding the departments plan to increase access to libraries in schools and ensuring that every new school has a library and the necessary LTSM in the library.



The Department is currently in the process of developing Terms of Reference (ToR) to introduce e-LTSM. The definition of e-LTSM will be entailed in the ToR, i.e. devices, interactive books, software, etc. Furthermore, the Western Cape and Gauteng provinces have implemented the procurement of e-LTSM where devices (tablets) and e-books have been procured.


Whilst the sector has made headway in addressing the textbooks and stationery supply in schools, there are still challenges facing the Library resourcing space. Through the savings and cost effective measures that are being put in place regarding the provisioning of textbooks and other Learning Materials, these savings would channelled towards Library resourcing. This is part of the LTSM Policy proposal that states “30% of the LTSM budget should be used for Library resourcing going forward”. This is due to the fact that the sector is fairly stable with regards to the provisioning of textbooks and stationery. 

The sector is relying on primary stakeholders such as publishers to develop and make these resources available to learners in an efficient and cost effective method.

The sector is also imploring material developers to make use of African writers to ensure that the content in these Library resources is bias towards the representation of the majority of South African learners.    

Programme Director, may I take this opportunity to acknowledge the strides that have already been made with the implementation of new innovations in LTSM space, although much still needs to be done.

I can also confirm that by 2016 there will be central procurement of LTSMs through a transversal tender.  This is being done in collaboration of the Office of the Central Procurement Officer in the National Treasury. Through this bold move we will make the necessary savings through benefiting from the economies of scale. All savings will be ploughed back to the system through the provision e-LTSM and Library resourcing.


In conclusion, Programme Director; allow me to share with you the wise words of the African son Frantz Fanon that I spoke about earlier. In his seminal work The Wretched of the Earth, he correctly argued that: “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it, in relative opacity.” I urge the 2015 generation to discover its mission through reading and never ever betray their mission of Moving South Africa Forward.


I thank you.


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Speech by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Gauteng Youth Month Celebrating 39th Anniversary of June, 16 Uprising held at Nasrec Expo Centre Johannesburg, 18 June 2015


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