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Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Free State Provincial Education Summit (INDABA) held at EMOYA Estate, Bloemfontein, 25 26 February 2016

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Programme Director

Premier: Mr E.S. Magashule, MPL

MEC for Education: Mr P.H.I. (Tate) Makgoe, MPL

DBE Director General: Mr. Mweli Mathanzima

Free State Director-General: Kopung Ralikontsane,

HOD for Education: Mr R.S. Malope,

District Directors

All Senior Officials

All Education Stakeholders’ Representatives

Organised Labour

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Programme Director, it is indeed a testament to our conviction to deliver quality education in our lifetime that so many stakeholders have gathered here today for the Free State Provincial Education Summit. As Basic Education Minister, I am privileged to be asked to reflect on the Sector’s vision towards an inclusive quality and efficient basic education system.

Programme Director; let me take this opportunity to thank the Honourable Premier and MEC for Education in this province for providing much needed leadership. Let me extend my words of gratitude to all attendees’ especially organised labour, learners’ formations and Non-Governmental Organisations. I heartily thank you for your attendance and hope that through robust discussions, we will emerge from this Indaba with a refined, and forward looking plan to accelerate quality education in this province.

The recent Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgement on the provision or lack thereof the Learning and Teaching Support Materials (LTSMs) to the Limpopo children, provided us with a mirror within which to view the importance of basic education. The Supreme Court of Appeal veered off from its legalese and stated that:

“It cannot be emphasised enough that basic education should be seen as a primary driver of transformation in South Africa”.

The SCA added: “We must guard against failing those who are most vulnerable.”

These words, although spoken by a learned Judge resonate well with our developmental blueprint, the National Development Plan (NDP). The NDP states unequivocally that:

“Improved education � will lead to higher employment and earnings, while more rapid economic growth will broaden opportunities for all and generate the resources required to improve education.”

Today, we are called upon to be midwives of, “putting the school at the centre of service delivery�” Today’s theme talks about improving learners’ outcomes to ensure access to high quality learning opportunities in further and higher education. This theme, Programme Director captures succinctly what we call – “Back to Basics” approach.

Addressing the Basic Education Lekgotla a month ago, I said: “in 1994, we made a vow to create a single national education system that delivers quality education to all.” We remain resolute that such a system must deliver inclusive, equitable, efficient and quality education. At the Lekgotla, I was at pains to point out that success would only come if we did all the basics right. I am glad that today, our focus is, “putting the school back at the centre of service delivery.”

Honourable Premier, Honourable MEC ladies and gentlemen, let me remind you about some of the resolutions taken at the Basic Education Lekgotla:

” we agreed to strengthen national, provincial and district plans and aligned these plans with the mandates from the NDP, the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), the Minister of Basic Education, the Council of Education Ministers (CEM), and the Heads of Education Departments Committee (HEDCOM);

” we committed that challenges and gaps towards the achievement of the goals of the NDP and those of the Sector Plan have been identified and strategies developed to address such challenges and gaps;

” we agreed to develop measures to remedy weaknesses, and to strengthen the School-Based Assessments (SBAs), internal examinations, and regulations;

” we committed to ensure that consolidated national strategy for learner attainments (NSLA), evidence-based reporting framework, and provincial plans are in place; and

” we committed to ensure that the extent to which the Sector has met the skills targets is established.

It is therefore incumbent on the People of the Province of the Free State, under the stewardship of the Premier, assisted by the Free State Education Department track our progress to implement the resolutions of the Basic Education Lekgotla, and hold us to account if needs be.

Programme Director, it is universally accepted that that a school is a centre of curriculum delivery; hence it is absolutely vital that it must be a centre of excellence with requisite materials and personnel to deliver on its mandate.

There are five basic things that we must do and do them right.

Firstly, we must provide the right teacher in front of the right class teaching the right subject, at all times. The right teacher must be solely dedicated to teaching for at least seven hours per school day. In the Sector, we call this, “Time on-task,” also known as engaged time, is the amount of time actually spent learning (Slavin, 2003). Programme Director, this means filling frontline vacant posts within a reasonable time.

Secondly, we must provide learners with a safe and engaging environment and ample opportunities to learn, such as – each learner must have access to quality learning materials, safe and appropriate learning spaces, age appropriate school furniture, portable water, and appropriate and hygienic sanitation. We are alive to the key role played by education in the broader society. Any lacklustre performance on our side, should a considered an affront to the children’s inherent right to quality education and dignity. In fact, we should be personally distressed if some of our children are not getting the quality education they deserve. Every child must have equal access to education, and an equal chance to succeed.

Thirdly, learners must be in class on time, and equally demonstrate behaviours and skills, such as writing, participating in tasks, reading aloud, reading silently, and asking questions; they should also be attentive, interested, and invested in their learning.

Fourthly, learners must enjoy the support of their parents and guardians. Research has concluded that a parent’s role in their child’s education is critical to their success. Parental encouragement and support for learning activities at home, combined with parental involvement in schooling, is as critical as having an engaged teacher in front of the class.

Fifthly, I must say that without exception, schools that work flourish in an environment of strong and visionary leadership. In a landmark examination of the evidence on school leadership, researchers from the Universities of Minnesota and Toronto concluded that leadership is second only to teaching among school influences on student success, and its impact is greatest in schools with the greatest needs. In another authoritative study, researchers confirmed through quantitative data that effective school leadership is linked to student achievement. Principals are the central figures in leadership and their actions have a direct impact of the success or failure of their learners. In essence, I am calling for an urgent rethink of who we appoint as principals. Linked to this, must be no school should be without a principal and/or School Management Teams for extended periods.

Programme Director; as soon the foundations for learning and teaching are in place, we must focus our attention on what exactly happens in the classroom. The next logical step is improving the quality of teaching. Research indicates that a myriad of Initial and Continuous Teacher Development Programmes do not seem to improve the quality of our teaching. Whereas, there are already efforts to rethink our teacher development programmes, for now all our teacher development activities must be based on the diagnostic reports and improvement plans from Grade 1 – 12. The diagnostic report and subject improvement plan contain such incredible data and information that if implemented, will logically lead to improvement. Schools, districts, and provinces which optimally utilise these resource documents, have shown sustained improvement. Unfortunately, the inverse is also true in this regard.

At the risk of repeating myself, Programme Director, if the Basic Education Sector wants to be a high performance organisation, there must be no room for mediocrity, ineptitude, corruption and good-old mismanagement of human or financial resources. For every action or inaction, there must be consequences. Throughout the system the relevant line functions must ensure that this happens from national up to the classroom level. Meetings of all School Governing Bodies (SGBs) must focus on holding the School Management Teams (SMTs) accountable on improving learning outcomes.

In conclusion, I just want to remind all of you that no matter what we agree on as a Plan of Action, we must have a way of pulling those left behind. In this regard, we must ensure that we have tangible and implementable plans to manage underperforming schools. The management of underperforming schools should be at heart of our daily routine. This is not a nice to have but a legislative injunction.

Today, I am calling for a paradigm shift. We must usher in a new era of “doing efficiently all that needs to be done.”

I thank you!

Source: Basic Education Republic of South Africa