Address by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the release of the 2009 National Senior Certificate results as well as the Northern Cape Matric Achiever Awards

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Premier of the Northern Cape,
The MEC for Education,
Speaker, Deputy Speaker of the Provincial Legislature and MPLs,
Local government representatives,
Educators, parents and learners
Ladies and gentlemen,

We are pleased to spend this important day with the achievers of the Northern Cape and all key stakeholders in education in this province.

We have come together, here, joining similar meetings around the country, because the release of the results of the National Senior Certificate each year is always much anticipated. It is an important occasion for the country.

The results are closely watched as we have come to consider these results a measure of the effectiveness of our education system.

I therefore wish to congratulate all the learners that sat for the 2009 matric examinations. I would like to especially recognise all our achievers throughout the country. You have done us proud.

I commend the principals, teachers, parents, and community members who provided these learners with such important support and encouragement.

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate all the schools that have achieved a 100% success rate, which number 417 across the provinces.

We congratulate the 20 schools in the Northern Cape Province that have achieved 100% pass rates.

We have decided to join you today and be part of the celebrations of the hard work of the children, parents and educators of this province, and to encourage you to do better next year!

It is possible. With focus and determination, the province can and should improve its pass rate in 2010.

Most of the children who will receive awards at this ceremony here today studied under difficult circumstances. We are proud of you.

Education is a central, critical determinant of the economic and social success of any country. It is probably the most effective means to eradicate poverty. It is the means to future success for the individual.

It is the most important element in our efforts to tackle unemployment and build an economy that meets the needs of our people.

That is why we have made education the apex priority of the ANC and its government.

In my inauguration address on 9 May 2009, I said that, "Together we must build a society that prizes excellence and rewards effort, which shuns laziness and incompetence.

"We must build a society that draws on the capabilities, energy and promise of all its people".

We will build such a society through education, and through investing in South Africa's greatest asset, its youth and its people generally.

Ladies and gentlemen, given the value we attach to education, we must register our disappointment and serious concern that the national pass rate has dropped from 62.7% in 2008 to 60.6% in 2009.

As the Minister of Education, Ms Angie Motshekga indicated this morning when she released the results, all provinces except KwaZulu-Natal have registered declines in their pass rates. KZN has increased its rate by 3.5%. We extend our hearty congratulations to the Premier, Dr Zweli Mkhize, the government and all stakeholders in that province.

Other provinces have not fared as well. As you know, the most pronounced drop has been here in the Northern Cape, where the pass rate declined by 11.4%, from 72.7% in 2008 to 61.3% in 2009.

The pass rates in the Western Cape and North West province have declined by 2.7% and 0.5% respectively. Results in the Eastern Cape have stabilised at around 50%, while those in the Free State declined by 2.4%. In addition, the pass rate in Limpopo declined by 5.4%.

These results clearly underline the need to continue to pursue improvements in education with determination.

Fortunately we have already begun the work. We need to intensify this work so that we see improvements in all these figures starting this year.
We must also make the observation that these results are a clear indication of the rigour of our examinations.

The standard of our question papers has been subjected to international scrutiny and benchmarked against equivalent international examinations and has been declared internationally comparable. These were not easy exams.

Our quality assurance council, Umalusi, has engaged the department of Basic Education thoroughly and systematically in every subject and pronounced on the performance of each subject. They have approved the results of the 2009 National Senior Certificate examination as fair, reliable and valid.

Where there have been problems, such as in Mpumalanga, they have raised these in a forthright manner and worked to resolve the matters speedily.
In our improvements of the education system, we must remain mindful of the need to ensure gender equality.

We are therefore pleased to note that over the past two years, the gap between boys and girls has narrowed, especially in the number of girls attempting and passing the gateway subjects of maths and science.

What then should be our focus in 2010 nationally?

In August last year, I met school principals from across the country. We had valuable discussions around the crucial aspects of infrastructure, curriculum, school safety, staffing issues, salaries, rural schools, communication, management, monitoring and evaluation, and financial matters.

The ANC government has already embarked on measures to address some of the issues. We need to proceed with urgency to address some of the other issues. We need to improve access to education further, and stem the drop-out rate, particularly from Grade 10 onwards.

We need to find out why we are losing large numbers of children in Grade 10, this very crucial stage of education. Why are they dropping out of school, what mechanisms should we put in place to keep them?

The achievement of parity in the distribution of resources is paramount to quality learning and teaching. We still have schools that have to work with very little resources, while others have more than enough.

Teacher training must also be emphasised to ensure the success of education endeavours in the coming years. We must promote teaching as a career amongst our pupils and reverse the decline in interest in this profession, which occurred partly as a result of the closure of teacher training colleges in recent years.

In addition, the monitoring and evaluation of the entire business of education from both national and provincial perspectives is crucial to the development and strengthening of a culture of education. Nothing must prevent us from ensuring that our learners are exposed to the highest standards in teaching, learning and assessment.

I invite teacher organisations to join government in achieving successes in what is regarded as the noblest of professions.

I call on parents and communities to truly place education at the forefront of our national agenda.

Most importantly, let me emphasise that we are serious about the non-negotiables in education and there will be no compromise on them. The teachers must be on time, in class and teaching for seven hours each day. Learners must respect their teachers and work hard at school. Parents must support teachers, learners and schools.

Departmental officials must regularly visit teachers and ensure that schools receive the required resources to effectively support learning and teaching.
We dare not fail our children. For if we fail them, we fail the nation.

To our matrics, let me reiterate that if you did not do well, it is not the end of the world. Use the various options open to you. This is just a temporary setback.
We encourage you to register immediately for supplementary exams that will take place in March this year. A good matric result is a valuable qualification, and we must encourage all learners to make every effort to do well.

I urge parents and neighbours not to make learners who did not do well feel they are failures. We should not place so much pressure on young people that they believe they have no future if they do not pass.

We should provide them with support and guidance about what other opportunities exist for their further development, including the opportunity to write supplementary examinations, in March this year.

We must remember that a sound basic education does not begin in the final year of school. In fact, it starts at the very beginning, in early childhood development.

We should therefore make sure that we pay equal attention to the various indicators of progress throughout a child's primary and secondary education.
All learners should immediately register and start preparing for the supplementary exams without delay. We want you to succeed and as government, we will support you to do so.

To those who did well,- take advantage of the many opportunities that your country has to offer.

Our higher education system is being revamped so that it can respond to the training and human resource needs of our people. We speak of the need for a university in each province as we want to widen access to higher education for all our youth. But focus is not only on universities. Do explore the further education and training colleges and various other institutions of higher learning going forward.

Let us make 2010 the year of achievement and success in our country in all spheres, especially education.

Congratulations to all our achievers!

I thank you.