Message of Support delivered by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the 8th National Congress of SADTU

2 October 2014, Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre, Gauteng

SADTU Deputy President: Cde Magope Maphila

General Secretary: Cde Mugwena Maluleke

Leadership Collective of SADTU

Revolutionary greetings to the leadership and members of SADTU! It is indeed an honour and a privilege for me to deliver a message of support to this august occasion, the 8th SADTU National Congress.

The year 2014 is an exciting year as we mark 20 years of South Africa`s democracy, peace and prosperity. In yet another milestone, we mark the 24th anniversary of SADTU. Since its formation, SADTU has been at the forefront of education transformation in this country. Today, you are one of the largest Teachers` Unions in the sector. We celebrate your bravery, tenacity and a firm resolve to put the interest of South Africa`s children first for all of the past 24 years. Of course, when SADTU was launched, South Africa was in a grip of low intensity warfare. The apartheid army had declared war on the people. The apartheid army had descended on the townships. Townships were on fire. Schools were on fire. South Africa was ungovernable as the apartheid regime used every trick in the book to delay the inevitable, the liberation of Blacks in general and Africans, in particular, from the yoke of oppression. We remember with envy the founders of SADTU, the pioneers and visionaries who said in the face of the regime brutality, “We shall never surrender”.

In his address to the launch congress on the 6th October 1990, uTata Nelson Mandela described SADTU as a beacon of hope that was putting Bantu Education to an end, and laying a firm basis for a single, democratic education system. Mandela challenged teachers to instil democracy in the classroom and develop learners. "It is your duty to also be democratic in the classroom. You have to answer the question - are you developing a kind of intellectual among those in your custody? Are you initiating a new kind of relationship with your pupils? Is this relationship based on mutual respect and trust or is it one which relies on bullying?" he asked.

Twenty-four years later, SADTU remains just that - a beacon of hope. A shining example of what happens when revolutionaries refuse to accept the status quo but choose to fight for a just cause. Comrades and friends, your work is not yet complete. 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. Yet, we yearn for quality education, for greater retention of learners within the system for at least 12 years. We must understand that quality education is foundational to any successful and modern economy. SADTU is at the coalface of this process of leapfrogging our education to greater heights.

We are glad that we have indeed replaced the divided apartheid education system that discriminated against black people with one system for all, regardless of race, with appropriate curricula and funding. Twice as many students attend university and graduate - three quarters are now African. We have added a year of schooling to prepare children (Grade R). The matric pass rate is up from a meagre 57% in 1994 to an average of 75% in 2013. At the heart of our progress over the years have always been committed teachers, the bulk of whom are SADTU Members. We salute you and wish that you grow from strength to strength.

Programme Director; let us be frank, the basic education sector needs SADTU. However, we don`t need any type of SADTU but a strong, vibrant and a united one. A weak and a divided SADTU will sadly mark an end of a revolutionary movement that has served Teachers and the education sector well for 24 years. We must collectively work towards healing and maintaining a vibrant and united SADTU. We dare not fail.

Upon the passing of our international icon, uTata Mandela, SADTU through comrade Maluleke made a vow. He said: "We as teachers will forever be reminded about the passion Nelson Mandela had for children, and their wellbeing. Our promise to Madiba`s legacy is to protect the education system in South Africa and to ensure that every child has the opportunity to grow their personal development."

Today, I stand before you and request that in this promise to the departed Madiba, we add unity within the sector. Let us today declare that we shall never break SADTU, which was in itself the product of a long and arduous struggle for teacher unity. Let us declare that a united SADTU is vital in providing leadership for the success and well-being of the education sector and democratic forces in our country.

Comrades, I was also asked to present a progress report on Early Childhood Development, Inclusive Education and Adult Learning to this Congress.

Progress Report on Early Childhood Development

As noted in the National Development Plan: Vision for 2030 (2011) ECD is crucial for later cognitive capabilities. The NDP states clearly that: “Delays in cognitive and overall development before schooling can often have long lasting and costly consequences for children, families and society. The most effective and cost-efficient time to intervene is before birth and the early years of life. Investment in Early Childhood Development should be a key priority.”

To ensure the realisation of the NDP injunction, the Department of Social Development with the Departments of Health and Basic Education and other stakeholders developed the South African Integrated Programme of Action - Moving Ahead. I am happy to report that Cabinet approved the plan on 18 September 2013 with the directive that the costing be concluded with National Treasury. This process is now at an advanced stage.

The Council of Education Ministers have also discussed the issue of ECD at length this year. Subsequently, we have developed the human resource development plan for the ECD sector in collaboration with DHET and the ETDP SETA. Working together with the ECD practitioners, the plan says by 2016 no Grade R practitioner with qualification below NQF Level 4 shall be in front of learners. By 2019, there will be no Grade R practitioner with qualification below Level 6. To achieve these ambitious targets, 13, 000 ECD practitioners will be trained towards an ECD National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 4 in the financial year 2014/15. Our ultimate target is that by 2019: All learners in Grade 1 have had access to a formal Grade R programme provided by the DBE; and DSD.

However, there is also a parallel process to introduce a Pre-Grade R year throughout the system. Our Medium Term Strategic Framework: 2014-2019 - demands the introduction of a Pre-Grade R year. This process is to be led by the Department of Social Development. An inter-departmental team has been working towards the finalisation of business processes, funding, human resources and infrastructure to ensure viability of the programme. This interdepartmental team consists of the Department of Basic Education, Department of Social Development, Department of Health and other state entities. The team has finalised provincial consultations on the draft ECD Policy. In the next few weeks a detailed report on the process will be prepared for submission to the Social Cluster for recommendation to Cabinet. After approval a detailed implementation plan with clear roles and responsibilities for the key departments will be developed.

Progress Report on Revitalisation of the ELSEN (Inclusive Education) Sector

Education White Paper 6 isolates the following approaches and strategies for the implementation of the Inclusive Education Policy:

  • Building capacity in all education departments;
  • Establishing district support teams;
  • Identifying, designating and establishing full-service schools;
  • Establishing institution-level support teams;
  • Establishing mechanisms for the early identification of learning difficulties;
  • Developing the professional capacity of all educators in curriculum development and assessment;
  • Mobilizing public support; and
  • Developing an appropriate funding strategy.

I am happy to report that to date a Draft Policy on Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS) with its toolkit has been finalised and was gazetted in February this year. A final Draft SIAS policy is being prepared for approval. It is acknowledged that the SIAS Policy cannot be effectively implemented without the necessary adjustments to the system for resourcing Inclusive Education.

Secondly, we have also concluded the development of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) for South African Sign Language (SASL) Grades R-12. It was approved as official policy in July 2014. The CAPS for SASL grades R-12 is ready for a phased-in implementation starting at Foundation Phase and grade 9 in 2015. In 2013/14 some 594 educators were trained in South African Sign Language as a Language of Learning and Teaching (LOLT). This training is continuing in all provinces as a priority area of training in 2014/15.

Thirdly, the provision of ICT Support to Special and Full Service Schools has been taken to a new level. I am happy to report that:

  1. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has partnered with Vodacom to establish and resource 40 DBE ICT centres. Advanced software and technologies have been installed for use by special needs learners.
  2. Provincial Education Departments have submitted plans on how the 40 ICT centres will be utilised and DBE is monitoring the utilisation.
  3. DBE is also partnering with the Department of Science and Technology on the provision of technology and other forms of innovations to improve support provided to learners with disabilities.
  4. An e-Health innovation for screening disabilities has been developed through a partnership between DST and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, for use by school nurses. The innovation is piloted in the Cofimvaba District in the Eastern Cape, and it presents an opportunity to contribute meaningfully in the implementation of Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support Policy.

Mass Literacy Campaign

The Kha Ri Gude (KRG) Mass Literacy Campaign caters for adult literacy learners and has been very successful and the country is well on the way to achieving global literacy targets. Eight hundred ECD volunteers have been training on 0-4 year stimulation. Certificates have been issued to blind and deaf volunteers that received the training, during the disability sector training session held from 4-6 July 2014. Registration of the 619 000 learners are currently in progress. Classes for the disabled learners commenced on 1 August 2014. Classes for the able-bodied group began on 1 September 2014.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Comrades, on the 5th October the world celebrates World Teachers` Day. On behalf of the Basic Education Department and Government as a whole; we would love to wish you the best World Teachers` Day ever. We thank you for your unrelenting efforts and sacrifice to better the lives of our learners. We acknowledge your dedication and selfless service to the betterment of our country. Under the theme “Invest in our Teachers, Invest in our Future”, we would like to re-emphasise our commitment as a Department to the continuous professional development of our teachers. Teachers are critical agents of change, and will indeed remain a guiding light for the nation in its quest for quality improvement of the development of the South African nation as global citizens.

I thank you