Awards revive pride in teaching

Friday, March 8, 2013

Midrand – President Jacob Zuma has pledged government’s commitment to restore pride in the profession that is universally acknowledged as the mother of all professions.

“We want children to look up to teachers and learn from them more than the formal curriculum. Through watching the conduct of teachers, learners must want to be successful, respectful and to be good citizens, who will take the country forward to prosperity,” said Zuma.

The President was speaking at the National Teaching Awards, a glittering ceremony held on Thursday evening to salute the nation’s hard-working and dedicated teachers.

Zuma encouraged teachers to play their part in helping government make education an essential service. He challenged them to turn the image of the profession around.

“Through professional conduct like coming to school on time and doing their work diligently, the teaching profession will regain the respect of the community. Our teachers carry an enormous responsibility on their shoulders. They carry the dreams and hopes of the nation.

“The manner in which they raise and nurture our precious children will help us build the model South African citizen. We will build the country that national heroes such as Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Chief Albert Luthuli, Ruth First, Dorothy Nyembe, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and many heroes and heroines sacrificed life’s comfort to establish,” the President said.

He warned that those who did not believe in the noble vision of South Africa’s forebears did not belong in the profession.

“The teachers that we celebrate today have spent most of their time contributing to this noble cause of building model citizens. These teachers are the pride of our nation.

“They demonstrate the excellence which we should all aspire to. They uphold our call for more focus on the Triple Ts – teachers, textbooks and time.”

He said government had a responsibility to supervise the profession and that discussions were continuing on a new performance management system for educators at the Education Labour Relations Council.

Priorities for 2013 included reducing teacher absenteeism and raising levels of accountability.

“Managers must manage properly. We will also be working with teacher unions, impressing the value of professional conduct upon their members.”

Zuma, who is passionate about education, said he wanted South African children to get good quality education. He reiterated that an investment in education was a prerequisite for building a country that works, and most importantly, one that advances the ideals of the Constitution.

Much has been done by government since the advent of democracy to improve the working conditions of educators, including compensation, teacher supply and utilisation.

Zuma said decent salaries and conditions of service will play an important role in attracting, motivating and retaining skilled teachers.

In the State of the Nation Address, Zuma announced that government will establish a Presidential Remuneration Commission that will investigate the remuneration and conditions of service provided by the state to all its employees, starting with teachers.

The President’s Infrastructure Coordinating Committee on 10 December 2012 launched the National School Build Programme, where government committed more funding for school infrastructure.

Government is working on two national programmes, including a provincially driven programme with a national budget of R8.5 billion and the national Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative with an allocation of R8.2 billion, of which R3.1 billion has already been committed to projects that are underway.

Government is also investing in teacher development to improve the state of education in the country. Zuma said government intended to strengthen and use the existing 112 teacher centres and five provincial teacher development institutes to provide more support to teachers at the local level.

Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande recently re-opened the Siyabuswa College of Education Mpumalanga. Zuma said this was part of expanding teacher training in the country.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga attributed the steady increase in the Grade 12 pass rate and improvement in the Annual National Assessments to dedicated, creative and motivated teachers.

“National Teaching Awards recipients are critical contributors to the successes we have achieved over the years.

“As ambassadors and models of good practices in this noble profession, they remind us that with extraordinary effort, the challenges facing the education sector can and will be overcome, one classroom at a time,” said Motshekga.

The categories of the National Teaching Awards include: Excellence in Primary School Teaching; Secondary School Teaching; Primary School Leadership; Secondary School Leadership; Grade R Teaching; Special Needs Education and Technology-enhanced Teaching and Learning.

Johannes Monnaphiri Melesi, the principal at Kopanong Secondary School in the Free State scooped the Professor Kader Asmal Excellence Award.

Kopanong is situated in an informal settlement and characterised by abject poverty. Despite these challenges, Melesi said he chose the school over a former Model C school, where he was working previously, because of his love for helping disadvantaged children.

“I derive pleasure in serving the poorest of the poor. My transfer was thus easy and comforting,” said an elated Melesi.

He also attributed his achievement to his staff. “My success is not mine but that of the people from the schools I went to and the province I come from.”-