XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Address at the 2012 National General Council (NGC) of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) | South African Democratic Teachers Union

Address at the 2012 National General Council (NGC) of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU)
by Mrs Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education

Cde President Ntola
Leadership of SADTU
Members of SADTU
Comrades and Compatriots,

Revolutionary greetings to the leadership and members of SADTU. This is a critical NGC, this being a very hectic, yet interesting and challenging year for all of us.

Interesting has been the countrywide centennial celebrations of the ANC`s 100 Years of Selfless Struggle with the ANC Centenary Torch brightening every cranny and province with a clear promise of hope. Our message has been that in spite of challenges together we will and must deliver our people from centuries of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Interesting has been the amicable conclusion of public service salary negotiations for which we thank you and other unions. This is sound management of labour relations and type of engagement, born out of struggle, that we welcome and sorely desire for the sake of our children.
We`re grateful for the vast contribution SADTU is making within the ELRC. We`re grateful for your work with provincial education departments and stakeholders in education.

Your support has broadened the space for us to face the ravenous clouds elsewhere that had threatened to reverse our forward march towards quality education for all.

Upfront I must say we`re determined to deliver an education of high quality driven by the urge to support our country`s human resources development goals and the trajectory of growth.

We`re prepared to boil the ocean for better education and a better country and continent.

Challenging has been the array of forces lined up against our revolutionary movement seeking to reverse our gains, alleging we`re incapable of ridding South Africa of its inherited economic challenges dating back to the era of colonialism and apartheid. 

Challenging has been the ensuing global economic slowdown and the financial turmoil beginning 2008, plus downgrading by rating agencies. Jobs are eroded, the cost of living is rising and the poor are getting poorer while the rich are getting richer. 

Most challenging has also been the tragedy of Marikana that has left a dent on our revolutionary history and national pride.

Most hectic has been the non-delivery and delays in the delivery of textbooks in Limpopo schools, a very serious matter that is deeply regrettable.

To those in our country genuinely worried about Grade 12 learners in Limpopo, we should say again that Grade 12 learners were not affected. Affected were learners in Grade 1-3 and Grade 10 wherein we had introduced new Curriculum Assessment and Policy Statements (CAPS).

We`re doing our best to ensure these counter-productive situations are not repeated.

We will succeed in defending our gains as the education sector to the extent that SADTU and other progressive forces come to the party and beef-up practically our efforts to turn-around schooling in South Africa. 

The disruption of schooling in the Northern Cape over service delivery protests should serve as a good example, yet painful, of those undesirable situations where we must take a stand together in defence of the African child and her future.

You all have witnessed a relatively smooth start to the 2012 National Senior Certificate examinations. We thank all teachers for their efforts throughout the year and wish their learners good results. And thanks for endorsing ANA. The decision to monitor progress towards improving the quality of basic education through Annual National Assessment (ANA) is beginning to bear fruit. Until two years ago, our main indicator of the level and quality of educational outcomes in the system was the Grade 12 national exams.

The introduction of ANA to monitor learner performance, from the Foundation Phase, is the best step we could have taken to ensure that all our learners acquire the critical foundational skills of literacy and numeracy early in their school life.In the recent round of ANA, more than 7 million learners in Grades 1-6 and Grade 9, from more than 20 000 public and independent schools, participated in this assessment of their literacy and numeracy skills and knowledge. 

In terms of its magnitude, ANA is second to none of the national projects we have ever undertaken. For it to have been run with the success that we have observed in the past few weeks, is a clear indication of the efficiency of systems we have put in place working together with stakeholders in the sector.It is important to emphasise that ANA is not an end in itself but a means to a very important end, that is, improving the quality of basic education. We therefore look forward to what the results of the ANA 2012 diagnosis will tell us about the health of our education system as measured in terms of learner performance.

When the results become available we shall expect everybody in the system to respond promptly in terms of what their responsibilities are and ensure that we each use the evidence to come up with meaningful interventions.  We must remember that in the medium term, we need to focus on achieving the targets that we set ourselves, of ensuring that by 2014 at least 60% of our learners in Grades 3, 6 and 9 achieve acceptable levels of literacy and numeracy.

In the long term, we want to have South Africans who are proficient in these skills and are successful in life. And we`re making progress. The 2011 General Household Survey has also provided evidence. We`ll talk details some other time. But this is worth noting: Nationally, 73,6% of persons aged 7-24 were attending educational institutions. According to the 2011 General Household Survey, the no-fee school system and other funding initiatives were beginning to show their effect.

By 2011, provinces with the highest proportion of non-payers were Limpopo at almost 90% (89.7) and the Eastern Cape at nearly 72% (71.8). This is important in our fight to reduce the number of children who are not studying. In 2011, 94% of surveyed pupils was attending public schools (GHS, 2011:1-2).

Well ahead of the 2015 target, we`re set to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals with regard to expanding access to education. This we must emphasise, for obvious reasons. We`re making progress in reversing the marginalisation of women.

As the Survey shows, "while women have historically been more likely to be functionally illiterate, findings show that women in the age group 20-39 years were more likely to have completed their primary school education than their male counterparts" (Ibid).
On teacher development, we`re beginning to see results of the Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development. Already, there is in provinces a sense of better coordination in this regard.

We`ve initiated an auditing process to support functionality of our 144 teacher resource centres. We`re also exploring the feasibility of setting up more centres. We`ve signed a Memorandum of Understanding with teacher unions to strengthen their capacity in teacher development. For 2012/13, provinces have set aside over R3 billion for teacher development.

We know that the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers (McKinsey Report, 2007).

We`re committed to improving the status of teachers in line with recommendations of UNESCO and ILO. We`re focusing on:
Attending to weaknesses in teacher supply and utilisation
Improving teacher content knowledge
Entrenching curriculum coverage
Protecting, promoting and respecting every child`s rights to basic education, and
Accelerating provision of school infrastructure and learning and teaching support materials for all learners.

You would know that we launched with President Jacob Zuma, early this month, 49 schools in the Eastern Cape, for completion before end of year.
As guided by the Action Plan to 2014: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025, we want to focus closely on improving supply of young and qualified educators, and on class size reduction. Some initiatives are already in place.

Firstly, there are concerted efforts to monitor key system-wide indicators, including monitoring the:

  • Number of qualified teachers younger than 30 entering the system for the first time each year
  • Percentage of learners who are in classes with no more than 45 learners, and
  • Percentage of schools where allocated posts are filled.

Secondly, practical steps are being taken to ensure schools have adequate qualified educators.

We hope Funza Lushaka Bursary, administered at national level, will improve supply of young and qualified graduates. On average, Funza Lushaka has contributed just over 2000 new graduates into the system over the last three years. At the end of June 2012, just over 1 890 of 2136 graduates of 2011 had been placed in posts. We invite SADTU to help us remove obstacles in some provinces making it difficult for schools to absorb all Funza Lushaka graduates.

We`re working with provinces to improve efficiency in recruitment and deployment of educators by, among others:

  • Streamlining post provisioning processes such as the declaration of school post establishments
  • Declaration and deployment of educators in addition to posts establishments, and
  • Filling of vacant posts.

There`s a need to evaluate the effectiveness of the current post provisioning model with a view to a possible review.

This is to ensure stability in school post establishments and that vacancies in schools, particularly those of classroom teachers, are filled in the shortest possible time, with qualified teachers.

Once concrete proposals are in place, they will be discussed with all education stakeholders and partners.

I also want to assure you that the roll-out of the new CAPS is on track. By August, Intermediate Phase CAPS had been delivered to provinces. And, teacher orientation is underway.

There are unsettling matters that we invite you to reflect seriously on and help us to resolve accordingly. These are matters directly impacting on the quality of the work we do and our outcomes as teachers, principals and schools.

We thought it prudent as DBE to ensure that:

  • The capacity of principals to manage schools is improved.
  • Teachers fulfill their responsibilities as required, ensuring that learners are taught regularly and are assessed at the required level, and
  • District officials account for poor performance of schools under their care.

As we address these issues, let`s not allow the pivotal work done in April (2012) by the ANC National Education Policy Summit to fall through the cracks. As we rightly said in the Summit`s theme, much still needs to be done to consolidate towards the achievement of quality education.

We may want to reflect at the appropriate time on some of the major policy inputs and issues from that Summit.

Key among these is the strengthening of education as an agent for development, completing the project of people`s education for peoples power, making education a societal issue and eliminating past and current disparities in education. 

We thank warmly the President and leadership of SADTU for making it possible for us to be here.

As you defend the teacher, as you take a stand for the teacher, keep-up the good work of reminding teachers of their paramount role in society, as transmitters of democratic values enshrined in our constitution.

I wish you a very dynamic and robust NGC. We remain deeply affectionate with SADTU understanding where we come from with it and how through its unflinching commitment to transformation, we have come this far.

Forward to quality learning and teaching for all!