Basic education minister Angie Motshekga said the department was going to “prioritise rural schools” in its programmes.
She was speaking at the National Education Excellence Awards at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Friday, where the department was acknowledging and honouring districts under the theme, “recognising excellence in districts and schools” for their dedication to education.
Principals and teachers from around the country were presented with awards for outstanding work, for what Phillip Tshabalala, director for district coordination, monitoring and support said were for improved learner performance (i.e. bachelor passes obtained) and leadership excellence (programmes of support and implementation of policy).
Prizes won were trips to educational conferences in Europe, including the United Kingdom and Finland, as well as desktop printers, trophies and certificates.
Troy Martens, spokesperson for minister Motshekga said, “These awards are important because they focus on the hard work and dedication of our district directors which are an extremely important cog in education that is often overlooked and under-appreciated, yet vital to ensure the system functions.”
The KwaZulu Natal province won the most improved districts award. “The districts are the link between provinces and the schools,” said Martens. The MECs of education “have quarterly meetings” with districts, she said. Tshabalala said districts and schools are “where education delivery happens.”
Minister Motshekga said it is important for district directors and teachers to ensure that “the schooling environment is one of mutual respect” in a clear disapproval of “the current violence and moral decadence” in our schools which she labelled as “unacceptable.”
Schools in Gauteng and other provinces have lately been plagued by violent incidents, such as at President High School in Gauteng where two pupils had a violent altercation that went viral and Gauteng MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi had to intervene.
“The current violence and moral decadence is really unacceptable,” said Motshekga. She said her department was working with districts and teachers in “ensuring that the schooling environment is one of mutual respect” and urged the many educators and department officials in attendance, “We have to make things work for our children. It is really education that can turn our country around.”
The basic education department manages about 27000 schools and 12.2-million pupils nationwide with an “expanded” early childhood development (ECD) programme, said Tshabalala. “We have stabilised the curriculum, stabilised policy formulation, teacher development, norms and standards and school nutrition.”
“Most success is what we do with our district managers,” said minister Motshekga.