Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi has called on the government to exempt teachers in the public sector from paying tax as a means to retain the best educators.
Lesufi said wealthy private schools were poaching the best teachers from public schools and offering them higher salaries, which they could not do in government.
Lesufi was speaking at the 2023 Gauteng leg of the Matric Awards at the Microsoft headquarters in Bryanston, Sandton, where the Gauteng Provincial Government celebrated the top matric learners who helped the province attain a 85.4% matric pass rate in the 2023 matric results, placing third behind the Free State and Gauteng.
Over 57,000 matric learners also passed with Bachelors passes, which permits them to study towards a degree in university.
“We want the best teachers to be where our learners are, what can we do when our best teachers produce 100% and they are recruited by the likes of Curro,” said Lesufi.
“We are saying to the minister of finance, you don't need any new money to pay our teachers, we are saying don't tax our salaries, give them as they are,” he said to resounding applause.
Lesufi, who appeared to be in a buoyant mood during his speech, also called on the government to allow the sons and daughters of teachers to study at any public school free of charge.
Pre-empting backlash on the calls, he called for teacher unions and other formations in the education sector, to back his call.
“We need to ensure that our good teachers don't leave, we need our best teachers in the classroom, we don't want them to be selling insurance instead of teaching,” said Lesufi.
“Teacher formations don't leave me alone in this thing,” he said.
The Premier said he was a big fan of Singapore’s approach to education, which included incentivising teachers from the time they began their studies.
"If you can't treat teachers as an important tool, forget it.
“Education is an important tool for the country. They have human capacity which comes through,” he said.
Lesufi has committed that all learners from the township who placed in positions 1, 2 and 3, would be handed bursaries from the Gauteng City Region Academy.
In acknowledging learners such as Wandile Mkhwanazi, Thandolwethu Zwane, Sbonelo Mkhaliphi, Lebogang Selepe, Mthokozisi Ndlovu, Ofentse Khwele, Sibonelo Sikosatsia, Morgan Mahlangu - learners from Gauteng townships who attained 100% passes in their respective accounting, geography, physical science and mathematics NSC exams - said it was due to dedicated teachers that they performed so well.
“It is this talent from our townships that we need to nourish. It is this talent that will grow this province.
“They are not from former Model C schools, they are from the township.
“These private schools want to pounce and remove those teachers from our schools, that's the price we pay for being poor,” he said.
Earlier this week, Gauteng Education MEC Matombe Chiloane was also in buoyant mood, advocating for township schools as a better alternative to suburban schools amid backlash about the province’s admissions policy.
Meanwhile, Lesufi has also called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign the Basic Education Law Amendment Bill which is currently before him.
The bill has received opposition from organisations such as the AfriForum, who have threatened to go to court, arguing that its adoption would be financial unfeasible in expanding compulsory pre-school education and on language policies.
Lesufi said the bill was calling on Early Childhood Development phased education to be compulsory.
“There must be no child who cannot attend ECD because they can't afford it. We want ECD to be exactly like Grade 1, all children must attend.
“If we don't sign the law, we will be defeating the purpose of BELA bill on grounds of language.
“Let our children go to school rather than spend time playing with bricks at informal settlements.
“As Gauteng, we are ready, we will unveil the crèche of the future, they will be no chalk, they will use the latest gadgets.
“This is the foundation for the future. If we can't get it right, we will fail. Mr President we are ready, sign the bill into law,” he said.
Lesufi said they would be ready to meet those who opposed the BELA Bill in court.