21 July 2020
Chairperson of the Select Committee and Honourable Members
Minister of Basic Education, Mme Angie Motshekga
Members of the National Executive present
Members of Provincial Executive Commutes (MEC’s) for Educations
Ladies and Gentlemen
Honourable Chairperson, last weekend, this honourable house lost one its member, Honourable Martha Phindile Mmola, the permanent delegate from the place of the rising Sun (Mpumalanga). We extend our condolences to her family, members of this house and the people of South Africa who lost a dedicated and selfless public representative
We recommit ourselves to the acceleration and the final realisation in our lifetime of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, and democratic society. A society that is an oasis of freedom, peace, and happiness. We will remain unashamedly bias towards the poor and downtrodden. We will continue to marshal our abilities, energies, and all levers of state power towards uplifting the quality of life of all South Africans, both black and white, but especially the poor. In this regard, basic education plays a pivotal role. This, Honourable Chairperson, is the shortened meaning of the National Democratic Revolution.
Honourable Chairperson and Members,
We convene today under the circumstances, not of our choosing but those imposed on us by the global heath pandemic, Covid-19. Thus, our reopened schools offer a new frontier against the pandemic as they are repurposed as epicentres of surveillance, screening, contact tracing, and testing of cases that would otherwise have fallen through the cracks. The Covid-19 pandemic threatens to engulf us and reverse the gains of the recent past in our basic education sector must not be allowed to do so.
We are steadfast in our resolve that the Covid-19 pandemic won’t be allowed to reverse the gains of the National Democratic Revolution. Ours is a historicalmission to bring about a new society built on the ashes of our ugly past. We are battle-hardened as former anti-apartheid activists. We insist that as headwinds threatento stall our march to victory, no child should be left behind. We made a revolutionary vow never to flinch in the face of adversity. As a result, we remain committed to the call of the National Development Plan (NDP) that basic education must play a greater role in building an inclusive society, providing equal opportunities and helping all South Africans to realize their full potential, in particular those previously disadvantaged by apartheid policies, namely black people, women and people with disabilities.
The Covid-19 battle will be won and lost by the use of ramped-up, non-pharmaceutical measures such as hand-washing with soap or 70% alcohol-based sanitisers, wearing face masks correctly and social distancing as a result, we must learn to coexist with Covid-19.
This period of uncertainty offers us an opportunity to craft a post-COVID-19 basic education social compact. It must be built on the back of the solid success of the last twenty-five years. It was no gimmick that the Class of 2019 achieved the historic 81.3 percent pass rate. A record of 409 906 candidates passed the 2019 NSC examinations. This achievement is no mean feat considering that the matric pass rate moved from a low base of 53.4% in 1994 to around 60% in 2009, to above 70% pass rates in recent years.
Thus the growth to the record-smashing 81.3 in 2019 was organic. Even before the historic matric pass rate, the focus of the sector and even that of our critics had shifted. It had shifted mainly from policy uncertainty occasioned by the on-off curriculum changes, teacher vacant posts, underqualified teachers, and discord between us and the organised labour amongst others to about educational quality.
Honourable Members, let’s recap that the 2019 NSC passes for quintiles 1 to 3 (“no fee”) schools combined, stood at 248 960. The Bachelor passes achieved by learners in “no fee” schools stood at 96 922 – an increase of 14.4% from 2018. The expressiveness of this increase lies in what research tells us, that in 2005, 60% of the Bachelor passes, came from the best performing 20% of the schooling system. However, with the introduction of pro-poor financing of the education system, in 2015, “no fee” schools, produced 51% of the Bachelor passes, which increased to 55% in 2019. Therefore, the significance of this, is that the gap between the Bachelor passes produced by “no fee” schools versus those produced by fee-paying schools have significantly and progressively increased from 2% in 2015 to 10% in 2019. This was a remarkableachievement based solid foundation since 1996.
At a district level, the picture that emerged was that of a system on the rise. As you should know, the NDP recognises districts as a crucial interface of the Basic Education sector in identifying best practices, sharing information, and providing support to schools. The continued growth in the performance of districts is closely monitored and evaluated by both the provincial and national departments. In 2019 NSC examinations – none of the 75 districts attained pass rates lower than 60%. Six districts (1 in the Eastern Cape, and 5 in Limpopo) performed at 60% and 69.9%.
Twenty four districts (ten in the Eastern Cape, five in KwaZulu-Natal, two in Limpopo, two in Mpumalanga, four in the Northern Cape, and one in the Western Cape) performed between 70% and 79%/. It is noteworthy that 45 districts (one in the Eastern Cape, all five districts in the Free State, all 15 districts in Gauteng, seven in KwaZulu-Natal, three in Limpopo, two in Mpumalanga, four in the North West, one in the Northern Cape, and seven in the Western Cape), performed at 80% and above.
At a provincial level with or without the progressed learners, none of the provinces achieved lower than the 70% pass rate. The provincial results showed that it is no longer a two-horse race between Gauteng and the Western Cape. We commend again Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, North West, Free State, and Gauteng for maintaining their 80% performance status. We must particularly applaud the Free State for reclaiming the top spot from Gauteng.
We also wish to applaud the Eastern Cape, North West and KwaZulu-Natal for the highest improvements in the 2019 NSC examinations. At a glance, these results show widespread sector improvements as a consequence of stability and policy certainty in the sector.
Honourable Chairperson, whereas from 2015 to date, greater equity and redress imperatives are systematically addressed, inequalities remain in the system. However, major strides have been recorded since the rollout of pro-poor policies such as no-fee schools, nutrition, scholar transport, and health services amongst others. These have shifted the balance of forces at the school level in favour of the marginalised learners.
All these interventions, which are called the “social wage” by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), have improved access, and retention of learners in schools, thus promoting equity and quality immeasurably. This is indeed a very encouraging development for our country.
In the last decade of the NDP, we are accelerating progress based on this solid foundation. Our vision of the post-COVID-19 basic education is anchored on the immediate implementation of a curriculum with skills and competencies for a changing world. This is to meet the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution through the ICT roll-out; as well as the introduction of Entrepreneurship, and the building of Focus Schools. At the heart of the post Covid-19 basic education roadmap is the elimination of the digital divide by ensuring that all schools and education offices have access to the internet and free data.
To succeed we need a new type of teacher. Thus we will improve the professionalism, teaching skills, subject knowledge, and computer literacy of teachers throughout their entire careers. This will augment our singular focus on improving the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy, especially “reading for meaning.”
However, none of these plans on paper will make alasting impact if the envisioned new basic education doesn’t accelerate progress in the decolonisation of the curriculum. This shall be done through the teaching and promotion of African languages, South African and African History as well as national symbols to all learners up to Grade 12. The decolonisation mantra is rooted in a recognition of the turbulent history of our country. I am happy to report that work on this front is at the advanced stage.
Honourable Chairperson, to ensure sustainable progress on quality, Cabinet has decided as you already know that the function of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) shifts from the Social Development to the Basic Education. The newly revamped ECD sector is in the making. We have made a conscious decision that the building blocks of our envisioned basic education, post Covid-19, must strengthen the foundations of early learning. This calls for the institutional transformation of the early childhood development sector.
The function shift allows us to reimagine the whole concept, meaning, and delivery of early childhood education. To assist us in realising the reimagined ECD sector, the following process will be undertaken: ➢ Convene an Inter-Ministerial Committee, ➢ Various work streams are working on the cradle to grave plans for the reimagined ECD sector,➢ A draft of an Integrated National Strategy for the ECD Sector,➢ finalise the National ECD Framework specifying the roles and responsibilities of Basic Education, and develop a costed implementation plan,➢ Develop a long term financing strategy.
These plans will succeed only if we craft a new human resource plan for the ECD sector, including minimum norms and standards, and quality assurance plan.
In conclusion Honourable Chairperson,
We have greatly improved the quality of our teachers. In 1994, only 54 percent of the African teachers were qualified, but today out of over 410 000 teachers, only a statistically insignificant number is still completing their qualifications. Interestingly, Honourable Members, nationally, the supply of newly qualified teachers had almost tripled over the five year period, growing from 5939 in 2008 to 25 877 in 2017. This is of course as a result of growing our timber through the Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme.
Some optimistic experts now expect South Africa to have a surplus of teachers soon. A further thirteen thousand Funza Lushaka bursaries have been awarded to student teachers, this year alone.
Let me take this opportunity to the thank the Minister of Basic Education, Mme Angie Motshekga for her sterling leadership in driving the sector during this very difficult and trying time in our country and the world.
If we pull together as a nation, we shall triumph. The war against Covid-19 is firmly in our hands.