The Presidency is surprised that the Democratic Alliance party objects to the honour bestowed on the Republic of South Africa by the United Nations, for South Africa through President Jacob Zuma, to serve on the UN Secretary General’s Education First Initiative.
The Education First Initiative is aimed at promoting the achievement of quality, relevant and inclusive education for all in the world.
President Zuma has been invited by the UN Secretary-General to be one of the ten inaugural Member State Champions for the Education First Initiative. The champions will provide support to the UNSG in order to ensure strong visibility and the success of the Initiative.
The invitation indicates the high regard with which South Africa is held in the world as a nation that is working hard to reverse the impact of three centuries of colonialism and apartheid, in education and all other spheres. Government welcomes the honour to serve in this UN initiative through the President.
The predictable DA objection sadly falls into the trap of consistently rubbishing the country and refusing to celebrate and welcome the achievements made by South Africa and its people, even in the international arena.In its objection the DA also claims that South Africa has not achieved much in education, which is incorrect.
South Africa can count many achievements over the past 18 years in reversing the impact of a racist education system which was designed to subjugate the majority.
In 2009 the President separated Basic and Higher Education so that each could receive undivided attention. At the Basic Education level government had to deal with the impact of poverty on learner performance and also factors such as weak school management, teacher knowledge, low levels of accountability, and limited resources all of which affected the way schools performed.
Systematically, government is addressing these shortcomings and progress is being made.
Most importantly, we want to achieve the goal of universal access to education. Over eight million children are now in no-fee schools.
We have also succeeded in facilitating universal access to primary education. The proportion of girls attending primary, secondary and tertiary education is improving significantly.
The government school nutrition programme feeds more than eight million children in more than 20 000 schools, increasing their performance in class.
We have impressive figures in early childhood development. Grade R enrolment has increased from 300 000 to more than 700 000 between 2003 and 2011. We are therefore on track to meet our target of having 100% coverage for Grade R by 2014.
Work is ongoing to eradicate mud schools, with 8.2 billion rand having been allocated to the programme. Next month we will be officially opening new schools in the Eastern Cape, replacing mud schools.
The matric percentage pass rate is on an upward trend. The pass rate was 67.8% in 2010 and 70.2% in 2011. We are working on improving the quality of teaching maths and science as well as the teaching of literacy and numeracy. We also want to achieve more university level passes.
Government is also working hard to improve literacy and numeracy in primary schools given the fact that many of the learners who reach grade 12 operate at literacy levels below grade 12. In this regard, we instituted Annual National Assessment tests. For the first time, Government is now able to objectively assess the health of the education system below grade 12.
The 2011 Annual National Assessments (ANA) results confirmed our belief that the levels of literacy and numeracy are very low. For example, Grade 3 learner average scores are 28% and 35% for numeracy and literacy respectively. We want schools to use the results to produce school development plans so that we can systematically improve education outcomes. The target is to have 60% of grade 3 learners performing at required literacy levels, at least 60% of grade 9 learners performing at required mathematics levels, and 175 000 grade 12 learners pass with a bachelor’s pass by 2014.
We had set ourselves a target of producing more than 40 000 teachers by 2014. This is clearly not sufficient to meet the future demand for teachers, particularly at Foundation Phase. In order to address this, institutions offering Foundation Phase teacher education will be increased from 13 to 21 over the next four years. Some of these will be revitalized former colleges of education.
Ongoing training of teachers is in the areas of school management and teaching maths, science and technology.
The teaching of African languages is also being prioritised.
TEXTBOOKS AND OTHER TEACHING MATERIALS
The schools must also have the tools of the trade, such as workbooks and textbooks. The Department of Basic Education has been directed to improve the distribution logistics so that books arrive in schools on time next year to avoid the problems that arose in Limpopo and other provinces.
The national government has intervened to deal with severe managerial challenges faced by the Limpopo and Eastern Cape education departments.
The interventions in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo are focused on a number of issues, including over-expenditure, failure to deal with excess teachers, financial and supply chain management, and lack of delivery of learning and teaching materials.
The President is processing the Presidential Task Team on the Limpopo challenge and will make an announcement once he has concluded the process.
We are continuing to work with the Eastern Cape as well to improve the situation in that province.
POST SCHOOL EDUCATION
A lot of progress is being made in improving higher education access and outcomes.
To reduce finance as a barrier to accessing post school training, allocations for loans and bursaries increased from R3.3 billion in 2010/11 to R5.5 billion in 2011/12, with R17 million focusing on learners with disability.
To create an incentive for learners to complete their studies and graduate in the same year, the total loan for the final year was converted to a bursary. R200 million was also provided for loans to 25 000 students who had completed their studies but could not get their certificates or graduate because they owe money to institutions of learning.
Significant progress has also been made in terms of enrolling adult learners for ABET levels 1 to 4 and the target of 233 000 for 2011 is likely to be reached, with enrolment already at 229 068 before all the 2010/2011 enrolments have been accounted for. This is an important milestone for increasing the employability of those without matric.
The introduction of the National Certificate Vocational (NCV) system in 2011 also marked a significant milestone in developing alternative avenues for skills development. It resulted in the creation of additional opportunities for 164 713 additional learners at FET colleges.
The absorption of graduates remains a problem. In this regard, the recent National Skills Accord between government, business and labour is a major breakthrough as it includes a commitment by business to absorb FET graduates.
Already there is progress. A total of 30 117 unemployed learners entered into learnerships against a target of 17 531 for 2011. Similarly, the target for workers entering learnerships was exceeded, with 19 192 workers entering learnerships against the target of 13 243. A total of 11 335 learners entered the artisan training system (indentured artisans), with 8 102 passing their trade tests and obtaining their trade certificates, against a target of 10 000 for 2011. The trade test pass rate increased from 41% in 2010 to 57% in 2011.
HIGHER EDUCATION ACCESS EXPANSION
Work is progressing towards the establishment of two new universities in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape Provinces. It is envisaged that the University in Mpumalanga will be built to accommodate approximately 15 000 students within the next ten years and the University in Northern Cape with approximately 5 000 students. Over the period 2011/12 – 2013/14, R300 million has been allocated to begin the work towards establishing these new institutions.
Steady progress is being made in both basic and higher education. Since education is a societal issue, government requests the ongoing support of communities, political parties, business, labour and all stakeholders to ensure success.
Working together we can do more!