Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga,
Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Dr Reginah Mhaule,
MECs for Education,
Leaders of teacher unions and school governing bodies,
Representatives of learner organisations,
Academics and experts in the education sector,
Representatives of non-governmental organisations,
Members of the media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Fellow South Africans,
I am indeed honoured to address this important Basic Education Lekgotla, which brings together all our finest minds and key stakeholders in the basic education sector.
Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister and her entire team, the teachers and, most importantly, the matric class of 2019 for achieving a new record pass rate of 81.3%.
Together you have demonstrated that hard work pays off.
It is significant that our matric pass rate has breached the 80 percent threshold for the very first time since the advent of democracy.
I would also like to congratulate and pay tribute to all the learners, teachers, management teams and school governing bodies of those schools that performed exceptionally well.
In achieving these results, many schools had to overcome challenges imposed by resource constraints, violent protests in their communities, the prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse and other such social ills.
Among these is the Ribane Laka High School in Mamelodi which achieved an impressive 97% pass rate against all odds.
We encourage other schools to emulate the methods of Ribane Laka, especially the collaboration between teachers and parents and the practice of Saturday classes, which the Principal has credited for the school’s success.
We are meeting here to carve a new path of progress for our basic education sector in the last decade of the National Development Plan.
We want to ensure that by 2030, South Africans have access to education and training of the highest quality, leading to significantly improved learning outcomes.
The performance of South African learners in international standardised tests should be comparable to the performance of learners from countries at a similar level of development.
All our learners should be able to read for meaning by their tenth birthday.
Our Mathematics and Physical Science pass rates should be comparable with, if not better than, nations of similar size and budget.
We are building an education system that will help free the potential of each of our citizens so that they too can enjoy the dividends of our hard won freedom.
The impressive 2019 matric pass rate is in line with recent local and international studies that indicate that our system of basic education is on the rise.
Various international benchmarking tests show that our performance in maths and language is improving in several of the measured grades.
We are making progress, we are indeed moving forward.
We most certainly are capable of achieving greatness as a nation.
Let us get back to work and continuously improve the learning environment and ensure that it becomes even more conducive for our children to achieve excellence.
Through the ASIDI and SAFE programmes, let us intensify our efforts to ensure that all our schools have appropriate structures and sanitation, as well as adequate water and electricity supply.
We must ensure that the mud-schools of yesteryear are forever banished to the past, and that all our children can go to the toilet in safe and hygienic conditions.
Working together through the National School Safety Framework, let us ensure that our schools are free of violence, drugs, dangerous weapons, bullying, cyber-bullying, gangsterism, sexual abuse and harassment.
I have no doubt that through our coordinated efforts under the auspices of the District Development Model – also known as the Khawuleza Model – we will be able to deliver quality education to our children.
Our schools and the entire education sector will benefit from integrated planning, better coordination and accelerated delivery of non-core responsibilities such as sanitation, infrastructure, electrification, water and roads.
Through the District Development Model, collaboration between departments and the different spheres of government will be improved to offer multi-disciplinary solutions to community challenges that often result in the disruption of learning and teaching.
Our collective task as a nation is to move South Africa to the next frontier of economic development, in which basic education plays a key role.
Just as we know that the steam engine spurred on the first industrial revolution, electricity the second, automation the third, and data the fourth, we know too that the underlying driver of all these industrial revolutions was, and remains, education.
This means that we must continue to focus on the achievement of reading outcomes in the early grades, rolling out the subjects of the future such as Robotics and Coding, while giving our learners a choice of learning streams that best suit their capabilities.
Our immediate task as government is to improve the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy, especially reading for meaning.
It is for this reason that reading for meaning has now been declared an apex priority.
Research has shown that for us to thrive in today’s fast changing world, our learners require a new breadth of skills.
These skills are still rooted in academic competencies such as literacy, numeracy and science but also include such things as team work, critical thinking, communication, persistence, and creativity.
All these skills are interconnected.
They are part and parcel of the skills set necessary to meet the demands of a changing economy and the future of work.
I commend the Department of Basic Education for moving with speed in implementing one of our 2019 SONA commitments – to ignite a reading revolution in our country.
Since we made that commitment, a coordinating structure for the reading revolution – the National Reading Coalition – has been established and is now operational.
Together with the Department of Basic Education, the Coalition has finalised a comprehensive National Reading Plan, which is an overarching evidence-based strategy that will alter the entire reading landscape in the country.
It compliments existing reading initiatives, such as the Read to Lead Campaign.
Since the Read to Lead Campaign was launched in 2015, some 7,500 schools have benefited through the provision of libraries and appropriate books.
We are indebted to the private sector and civil society organisations for contributing to this success.
The main thrust of our plan is to ensure reading for meaning across the curriculum, in all grades, and in all schools throughout the country.
Our plan is to ensure that we teach all our learners to read well.
As society we need to socialise all our learners and young people into becoming life-long readers.
We must support them in their reading for academic purposes, for knowledge and for enjoyment.
Today, we say to all South Africans that reading is not a portion of education, it is education.
We cannot succeed on our own as government to get the nation reading.
That is because the first real teacher of any child is the parent.
We need a collaborative approach.
What is taught at home must be reinforced at school.
Similarly, what is taught at school must be reinforced at home.
On our side, we have resolved to strengthen the capacity of the sector, especially teachers, through the wall-to-wall capacity building of anyone in the reading ‘supply chain’.
All teachers are going back to school to be taught the latest how-to-teach reading methodologies.
We will train all our teachers thoroughly, and provide age and language relevant materials to all our learners.
As a citizen myself, I will soon launch a virtual book club in an effort to turbocharge reading across the country.
Known as the President’s Reading Circle, this virtual book club will allow readers to share their views on the books with me through the chat service on the club’s website.
I encourage those of you who have not already done so to sign up.
I have been told engagements and discussions at this Basic Education Lekgotla have been productive and have resulted in tangible outcomes.
They have demonstrated the importance and value of partnership in meeting the developmental needs of our country.
This Lekgotla confirms that education is a societal issue.
I wish you all the best in taking forward the endeavours of this Lekgotla and in continuing with this, the most important job of all, to prepare our youngest citizens for a rich, productive and fulfilling future.
I thank you.