Education system must provide learners with more choices – President Ramaphosa

Thursday, January 26, 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for the broadening of learner access to technical and vocational subjects in order to provide them with more choices and better guidance, as well as mitigate the dropout rate.

The President said providing learners with more choices and better guidance should make an impact on the number of learners who drop out.

He said the improved matric results must encourage stakeholders in basic education to redouble efforts to address the extremely serious problem of learner dropout. 

President Ramaphosa was delivering the keynote address at the Basic Education Sector Lekgotla at the Sandton Convention Centre, in Johannesburg, on Thursday.

The three-day lekgotla is held under the theme: 'Equipping Learners with Knowledge and Skills for a Changing World in the Context of COVID-19'.

“In many respects, the problem of learner dropout makes the theme of this year’s lekgotla even more relevant.

“The theme, which focuses on equipping learners with knowledge and skills for a changing world, raises the important issue of whether all learners who enter the basic education system are able to follow the educational paths that best suit them and their aspirations,” he said.

The President emphasised that the three-stream model (academic, technical vocational and technical occupational) is critical if the country is to adapt and thrive in the new world of work.  The strategic objective of the model is to increase the quality and access to quality education through increasing learner access to technical, vocational and skills (TVS) subjects and schools.

“The skills that our country needs, the jobs that can grow our economy, and importantly, the avenues for entrepreneurship that are so sorely needed, can best be achieved by increasing learner access to technical and vocational subjects. 

“I am pleased to hear about the progress that we are making in institutionalising the three-stream model,” President Ramaphosa said.

Various technical vocational specialisations have already been introduced in more than 550 schools, and a growing number of schools are piloting the subjects in the technical occupational stream. 

President Ramaphosa said subjects, including Agriculture, Maritime and Nautical Science, Electrical, Civil and Mechanical Technologies, are among the types of subjects he wants to see being offered at many schools.

“These are all vocations our economy sorely needs. They are the kind of vocations that we need to promote and develop if we are to tackle unemployment. 

“The high numbers of unemployed young people is something no country can afford, but it is even worse if they are also not in education or training,” he said.

The President told the lekgotla that inclusive growth and shared prosperity can only be achieved when more people are working. 

He emphasised that a productive workforce cannot be achieved if South Africa does not evolve into a nation committed to lifelong learning in various forms. 

“If the economy is not creating enough jobs at scale to support the growing numbers of the unemployed, we have to think creatively and innovatively. This starts with developing skills for a modern and dynamic workforce through basic education. 

“It cannot be emphasised enough that the greater the scope of basic education streams, the better our learners’ prospects are for securing employment and for self-employment after school,” the President said.

Rising performance of learners in poorer schools

The President further lauded the class of 2022 for their remarkable 80.1% pass rate, despite the impact of lockdowns, school closures, learning disruption, curriculum trimming, rotational timetables and numerous hurdles.

“This year’s results, particularly the performance of learners from poorer schools, show the deepening impact of education spending and the social wage more broadly. We congratulate all the learners. 

“The rising performance in poorer schools is like touching the Holy Grail. As we are improving particularly in poorer schools, results are becoming more and more positive. This is a sign of a revolution we always thought we want to achieve and I dub it 'touching the Holy Grail',” the President said.

The President also congratulated and thanked all those who contributed towards this outcome, including Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga and the respective MECs and their teams. 

Meaningful development

President Ramaphosa said the Basic Education Sector Lekgotla is one of the most important events on the country’s calendar. 

Officials, educators, teacher unions, policymakers, the private sector and civil society use the platform to chart the course for basic education for the next 12 months and beyond. 

“Beyond reflecting on the issues facing the basic education sector, our expectations are that the collective expertise at this Lekgotla will help us consolidate what has been achieved so far to strengthen basic education outcomes into the future. 

“We know that education involves more than the skills needed to work; it is also about developing the capabilities needed to participate in a democratic society,” the President said.

He called for schools to become places that are free of corporal punishment, sexual abuse, gender-based violence, racism, substance abuse and other ills. 

The President said just as education fights inequality and poverty, improves a nation’s health outcomes, and contributes to economic growth, investment in quality education extends beyond learning itself. 

“We are working hard to ensure that learners are able to receive education in dignified conditions that support their health and well-being. Through the Sanitation Appropriate for Education programme, known as SAFE, we have so far been able to construct 50 000 sanitation facilities at 2 388 schools,” he said.

A further 15 000 appropriate toilets were constructed at 1 047 schools as part of the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI). 

“The Department of Basic Education assures me that all remaining SAFE sanitation projects at approximately 1 000 schools are scheduled for completion in the next financial year. 

“We know that conditions of learning are seriously constrained in many of our schools by high learner-teacher ratios, amongst others. The burden of expectation on our educators to teach, do administration and meet the needs of their learners is stressful,” he said.

President Ramaphosa said the introduction of learning assistants in classrooms, as part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus, has been a blessing for many educators and schools. 

The third cohort of participants will be starting early this year to provide the much-needed support to educators across the country.

“Building resilience and promoting success in basic education is a firm foundation for economic growth, social progress and tackling inequality. I look forward to today’s deliberations and to the outcomes of the Lekgotla,” the President said. –

Most Read

SA News on Facebook

SAnews on Twitter