: Address by President Jacob Zuma at the national interaction with school principals

Friday, August 7, 2009

Address by the President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, on the occasion of the President's national interaction with school principals, Durban International Convention Centre
The Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga;
Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande,
Minister in the Presidency, Mr Collins Chabane,
Honourable Premiers, 
Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Mr Enver Surty,
Education MECs,
Mayors of eThekwini and Umsunduzi,
School Principals from all provinces; 
Labour representatives and other stakeholders,
Distinguished guests; 
Good morning and welcome to this interaction on education.
In the State of the Nation Address in June, I said that I would meet school principals "to share our vision on the revival of our education system". 
We have assembled here today because we share the common goal of promoting quality education in our country.
I am pleased that the school principals in our country responded so enthusiastically to the invitation. 
Our wish had been to meet with all our 25 000 school principals. This proved impossible due to logistical reasons.
We will therefore treat today's meeting as the launch of an ongoing interaction with principals, as the managers of our schools and key delivery agents in our education system. 
The intention is to have follow up interactive meetings in the provinces, hosted primarily by Premiers and MECs, with the participation of the President where possible. This will enable principals who are not here to be part of the education renewal exercise.
Our session today should serve to underline the fact that education is an apex priority of this government. 
It is our most powerful weapon in the struggle against poverty. 
All the successful countries of the world did one thing in common - they invested in education. It is the one thing that ensures long-term, sustainable progress. 
Success in education will make it easier to achieve our goals in the other four priorities. 
The other four priorities are health, rural development and land reform, the fight against crime and creating decent work.
The importance of education to this new administration is demonstrated by the fact that we have deliberately created two departments, basic and higher education.
The Ministry of Basic Education focuses on adult basic education and training as well as Primary and Secondary education. 
The higher education ministry focuses on tertiary, technical and vocational training. It will also take responsibility for the sector education and training authorities. 
A core mandate of the higher education portfolio is to continuously align the higher education and technical training institutions to the economic and other development priorities of our country. 
Ladies and gentlemen, 
Our meeting today is significant in many respects. 
We have essentially come together to launch a new drive to truly change the learning, teaching and management of our schools.
Our meeting is an acknowledgement of the fact that our wonderful policies that we have been implementing since 1994 have not essentially led to the delivery of quality education for the poorest of the poor.
The question we must answer today is why our policies have failed to deliver excellence and what we should about it.
We have established two key Ministries in the Presidency, one for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and other for Planning, in order to assist government to improve the implementation of its policies.
Before expressing our thoughts as to what could be the problem, and searching for possible solutions, we must together use this unique opportunity to salute those educators who have over the many decades dedicated themselves to their craft diligently, against all odds.
In spite of Bantu Education, our country produced thousands of distinguished professionals from the black community in our country.
We must credit our patriotic teachers and school principals for this achievement. They decided that despite the odds, they would use whatever skills they had to develop the African child. 
Our people defied a well-orchestrated system of inferior education, and that is why we salute them.
We now have a democratic government which is prepared to work with our educators to create better working conditions than those of decades ago during apartheid. 
The painful reality is that Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd succeeded to destroy education of black children. We must now work harder than ever before to undo his legacy of Bantu Education. 
We have laid the foundation for quality education since the ushering in of democracy in 1994. 
However, we realise that the damage runs deep, both at a practical and philosophical level. 
The apartheid regime turned education into a powerful weapon of subjugation. 
Apartheid architects succeeded in creating deep-seated inequalities in education and all other spheres. 
An education system was created whereby a doctor graduating at the University of Transkei would be regarded as being technically inferior to one coming out of the University of Natal, because of unequal resource allocation. 
We must today dedicate ourselves to put the past behind us and to make education an instrument of freedom and sustainable development. 
It must be a weapon of liberating the minds of our children for the common good of our country. It must empower the nation to move forward to prosperity.
We have created the right foundation to launch this new renewal and change of attitude, since 1994.
It is not all doom and gloom. In our primary and secondary schooling we are just a few years away from achieving 100% participation by all our children. 
The participation of girls is amongst the highest in the world. 
About 600,000 children attend crSches and pre-schools.
We have increased our expenditure on education by around 15% a year in most of these years. 
We have put in place a number of initiatives to ensure that we improve the quality of education. We have improved support to schools, teachers and principals. 
We have improved mechanisms for the involvement of parents and communities in the education of our children. 
But despite these achievements, our education outcomes still remain somewhat below standard. 
We need to confront certain realities. For example, teachers in former whites-only schools teach in class for an average of 6.5 hours a day, while teachers in schools in disadvantaged communities teach for around 3.5 hours a day. The result is that the outcomes are unequal. 
We should therefore not ask why matric results remain perpetually poor in black communities. 
We must ask ourselves to what extent teachers in many historically disadvantaged schools unwittingly perpetuate the wishes of Hendrik Verwoerd, if they decide to teach for about three hours a day. 
Many children from poor communities do not complete senior secondary school. 
In many instances the reason is that they cannot cope with the higher levels, as a result of problems in the delivery of education earlier in their school life.
In recent international tests for Grade 6 literacy, South Africa scored 302, while the international average was 500. 
In the mathematics test for Grade 8, South Africa came last with a score of 244, while the average was 467. In the same test, our neighbour Botswana scored 365. 
We cannot blame teachers only. A substantial proportion of schools still lack the physical facilities that constitute an enabling teaching and learning environment. 
We need to turn the situation around. We need to get some basics right. This meeting is the beginning of the future. 
We today pledge our support and will create a partnership with our principals to ensure an undivided implementation of the education non-negotiables.
We must ensure that our teachers teach for seven hours every school day. Teachers should be in school, in class, on time, teaching, with no neglect of duty and no abuse of pupils. 
Some of our teachers should know that Fridays and pay days are ordinary school working days. Children should be in class, on time, learning, be respectful of their teachers and each other, and do their homework. 
As part of active performance monitoring and evaluation, I will visit some schools unannounced to check if the non-negotiables are being adhered to.
Our principals are the most important partners in this education renewal campaign. All the international studies show that the biggest driver of better education outcomes is the school manager, the principal. 
School academic performance is highly correlated with the abilities and commitment of the principal. 
The 'Schools That Work' Report, commissioned by the Department of Education in 2008, confirms the importance of school leadership and its critical role in the achievement of excellence in education. 
A large number of our schools that are working well displayed shared leadership qualities, where principals created strong teams which plan and strategise together. 
This shared responsibility for the quality of education provided in the school often spread from the management team, to teachers, learners, parents and the community. 
Some principals have produced sterling results without any extra resources, while many have not improved results even after being provided with additional resources. 
Our experience suggests that there are at least five key things that successful principals do. 
They hire qualified teachers, or ensure the training of the unqualified teachers on their staff.

Successful principals ensure distribution of workbooks and textbooks on time. This is critical to successful learning. 
It empowers pupils and helps to ensure that they complete the syllabus. 
Successful principals check that teachers are in class teaching. 
As said earlier, a major problem in our schools is that teachers are frequently absent, arrive late, leave early, or spend their day doing things other than teaching. 
Successful principals monitor and evaluate the quality of learning with the children, and keep parents informed of their childrens' progress.
Successful principals work with the community and the department to remove obstacles to learning. 
If every principal in the country does just these five things, assisted by the Department, parents, learners and unions, we will have made tremendous progress in turning our schools around.
In underprivileged schools, principals would also need to help extend school feeding schemes to all deserving schools including high schools.
Poverty is a key determinant of performance in schools.
We want all our schools to be underpinned by a culture of achievement, professionalism and positive results.
As said, we must do things differently. This includes promoting a culture of accountability. 
We will introduce a system of performance measurements throughout the educational system. We want our principals to know what is expected of them, and to help us to meet those targets.
There is also a set of non-negotiables that binds the state, and the officials of the Department of Basic Education across the country. 
The non-negotiables for officials at head office are to support all our schools. They must ensure that all teaching resources are provided on time, to monitor teacher and learner attendance and performance, and to facilitate teacher development. 
The non-negotiables are also binding on our strategic partners, our unions and teachers. 
Going forward, we must today then agree to strengthen the partnership for the renewal of our education system. It must be a partnership in which we all agree to finally move towards burying the impact of apartheid in education.
Government as a key partner must continue to spend money on improving infrastructure and resources. 
We must improve the physical conditions of our schools and provide the working tools such as textbooks, laboratories and other equipment.
We must invest in skills development for teachers. 
Maths and science as well as management training should be key areas of focus. The training focus should include the many unqualified teachers in our education system, especially in townships and rural areas. 
There is something seriously wrong with our education system if such teachers are not offered an opportunity to study and obtain qualifications. 
We must actively seek partnerships with the private sector. We last saw a major investment in education shortly after the retirement of our icon President Mandela, when conglomerates built schools at his request. 
We would like to see that type of corporate patriotism returning.
We must revive the situation where state owned enterprises were centres of training for artisans and other trades to produce much needed technical skills for the nation. 
We must revive and strengthen our partnership for renewal of education with all our teacher unions. 
We intend to have a continuous discussion with them as to how we can promote the non-negotiables.

We must build a partnership that creates safer schools. Schools should be safe places, free from violence, intimidation and bullying and unwanted or inappropriate sexual relationships.
We must form a partnership with parents. They must ensure that their children go to school, arrive on time, stay in class, participate fruitfully and do their work. 
They must ensure utmost discipline by their children in schools. 
We have noted the discrepancies in the functioning of school governing bodies especially in rural and urban areas.
We must study this carefully and ensure that we do not have an ineffective one size fits all approach.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We must build a partnership with our children. We must make them see why we are investing so much time and money in education.
We must strengthen our partnerships to intensify our mass literacy campaign, which is as of this year reaching more than 500,000 people who could not read and write. 
We are well within target to ensure South Africa is free of illiteracy by 2014. A literate population is an advantage for democracy. 
In higher education, 140,000 students have been supported through our national financial scheme, which is helping to improve participation of the poor in higher education. We realise that we must do more to widen access. 
We must develop partnerships to place Further Education and Training colleges at the centre of skills development for the economy. 
Most importantly, we must form a partnership that promotes education as a nation building tool. It is through education that we can produce well-rounded citizens who know what it means to be South African citizens.
It is through education that we can produce citizens who appreciate where we come from, and understand that we want to be a winning nation. 
Compatriots, let us today commit ourselves to this partnership for Quality Learning and Teaching, to promote excellence in education.
We look forward to hearing the views of our principals today. You are better placed to shape this partnership, as you are directly involved in the delivery of education.
Let us build a partnership that will enable us to make quality education available to all our children - not just the select few in the cities.
Let us declare together that for as long as there are children who do not have the means nor the opportunity to receive a decent education, we shall not rest, and we dare not falter. 
Lets join hands and work together. 
Because working together we can do more.
I thank you. 

Most Read

SA News on Facebook