MEC for Education, Hon. Gade
Head of Department and his Executive Management Team
Ladies and gentlemen
Uyayazi into yoba uyakuze uthi ucinga izoqala imini ngezinga eliphezulu suke imeko zobomi zikwehlise. Mandithathe elithuba Mphathi Nkqubo ndicele uba siphakame sinike imbeko kwigqala lemindlalo yeqonga uMama uNomhle Nkonyeni othe walishiya eliphakade izolo. UMama uNkonyeni usishiya ebesaqhuba umsebenzi wokuzinzisa ezenkcubeko kwimfundo yabantwana bethu. Wanga umoya wakhe ungaphumla ngoxolo.
Programme Director, we are in the month of July, the birth month of our first democratic President, Nelson Mandela. And we meet to talk about a subject that was very close to his heart, Education. In one of his many profound remarks about education Nelson Mandela once said: “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”
Last night, I came across an article in the London based Economist Magazine. It reads.
After an hour of pencil-chewing, Lizeka Rantsan’s class lines up at her desk to hand in its maths tests. The teacher at the Oranjekloof primary school in Cape Town thanks the 11 to 12 year olds and flicks through the papers. Ms Rantsan’s sighs unimpressed. Pulling one sheet of errant scribbles from the pile she asks: How are we supposed to help these children?
Programme Director, I guess this is the question that principals and teachers ask themselves on a daily basis in schools across our province. As if this is not enough, The Economist article went further to claim that our children perform poorly in reading and writing than their peers in poor parts of the continent. The question we must ask ourselves is what went wrong?
As I sat at home digesting what the article is saying. The word apartheid and its segregation policies hit me. I immediately remembered that it was JN Le Roux, a politician of the National Party in 1945 who said: “we should not give the natives any academic education. If we do, who is going to do the manual labour in the community.”
A few years later, entered a Hendrik Verwoed in the 1950s and said: “there is no place for the bantu un the European community above the level of certain forms of labour. What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice”? That is quiet absurd. Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live.”
Twenty-four years later, in 1974 yet another apartheid agent by the name of Punt Janson who was a Deputy Minister of Bantu Education thought his voice should be heard too, hence he added that: “I have not consulted the African people on the language issue and I’m not going to. An African might find that “big boss” only spoke Afrikaans or only spoke English. It would be to his advantage to know both languages.”
This language policy that Janson misguidedly proclaimed, would prove to be the tip of the iceberg for the black nation that had endured the discriminatory policies of the apartheid regime since 1948. As history records, it took a generation of courageous young school children in 1976 to confront the enemy when they categorically stated: “We shall reject the whole system of Bantu Education whose aim is to reduce us, mentally and physically into hewers of wood and drawers of water.”
It was the act of the 1976 generation that opened the eyes of the world to the brutality of the apartheid regime against a people who only wanted to live a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous country enjoying equal opportunities.
In 1982 Robert MacNamara, the ex-President of the World Bank remarked during his visit to apartheid South Africa that: “I have seen very few countries in the world that have such inadequate educational conditions. I was shocked at what I saw in some rural areas and homelands. There is no social, political or economic problem u can solve without adequate education.”
In 1984 the Congress of South African Students would also remark that “the education we receive is meant to keep us apart from one another, to breed suspicion, hatred and violence, and to keep us backward.”
Programme Director, I am sharing this timeline of our painful past with you to remind all of us about the history of our education sector and the depth we come from as black people in our pursuit of this basic human right which our forebears sought to prioritise in the Freedom Charter when they said the Doors of Learning and Culture Shall Be Opened. Throughout the apartheid years and despite the systems efforts to pull us down as a people, we have always emerged and shown our prowess to achieve excellence in education. Our schools have produced outstanding learners who have become household names in various sectors of our society.
It was Qunu Primary School in Mthatha, Clarkbury Senior Secondary School in Engcobo and Healdtown Secondary School in Fort Beaufort that moulded and shaped the first President of our democratic government, Nelson Mandela. Equally, it was Ludeke Methodist School in Mbizana and Holy Cross Missionary School in rural Flagstaff that produced Internationalist and longest serving President of the ANC Oliver Tambo. Both these leaders of our people went on to become partners of the first black owned law firm in South Africa, the Mandela and Tambo Law Firm.
Despite the challenges of our painful past, our schools have continued to be a fertile ground to produce Doctors, Chartered Accountants, Engineers, Astute Businessmen and Women and Sports Athletes who have raised the South African Flag high in international sporting competitions in our recent history.
Programme Director, most of the luminaries of our province who are hailed for excellence in all these sectors of our society were made possible by the calibre of teachers they had. These are teachers who taught lessons in extremely difficult conditions. Most, if not all the schools they taught in, had no electricity, no running water, no proper sanitation, no libraries and other necessities that are essential for a conducive work environment.
Even the resourcing of schools financially was depressing to say the least for the previously disadvantaged schools. For instance, in 1975 the apartheid government allocated R650 per white pupil, R189 per Indian pupil, R139 per coloured pupil and only R42 for a black African pupil. But despite this concerted effort to give the black African child an inferior education, our teachers continued to go beyond the call of duty to ensure that a black child is freed from a life of poverty through education.
This year our country is celebrating 25 years of democracy and one of the apex priorities we have constantly pursued since 1994 has been broadening access to Education. Today there are more learners in our schools than they were in 1994 and in the past five years we have shown steady progress in education outcomes particularly in grade 12 matric results reaching our proud milestone of 70.6 per cent last year. That means we are turning the corner, hence we committed to the people of our Province in the SOPA that during this term we want to prioritise quality outcomes than quantity. Having said that, we have also added that going down from the 70.6 per cent mark is not an option.
We understand that to maintain the standard we have set in the past 5 years, there is a lot that we need to improve in relation to the resourcing of schools, management of schools and generally in the culture of teaching and learning in our schools.
Besicinga iziphumo zebanga leshumi zisisusile kulento yoba ngu number last kwezemfundo apha eMzantsi Afrika. We were shocked by the results of the School Monitoring Survey of 2017 that was commissioned by the Department of Basic Education which revealed that our Province is leading in Teacher Absenteeism in secondary schools in the entire country.
Noko ayonto esinovuyela iwonga layo ke lena kuba ithetha ukuba kukho abantwana abangenaTishala phambi kwabo ixesha elininzi. Lonto ingunozala weziphumo ezimbi ekupheleni konyaka yaye inyasha ilungelo Labantwana lokufumana imfundo.
Last month we presented the State of the Province Address and committed to build the Eastern Cape we all want, a connected and enterprising province where all people reach their potential. We will only achieve this vision through a functional education system.
We have called all of you as managers of schools so that we can have a meeting of minds to talk frankly about what we must do to build on the momentum we gained in the past 5 years to improve our education system. Education remains the single most important tool we can use to free our people from the trap of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The answerers to our challenges and opportunities are here in this room. The citizens of our province have put their faith in all of us to get things right. This is our collective opportunity to get things right, let us engage.