Closing remarks – Education and Skills Conference
By COSATU President Comrade Sidumo Dlamini
- Comrades we have now come to an end of the conference and we can say with confidence and without any fear of contradiction that we have had a successful conference.
- We now carry recommendations to our 11th National Congress in which delegates from this conference reaffirmed that ours is a class struggle which is being fought in a terrain of Neo – Liberalism which despite its manifested global chronic failures remains a dominant ideology of the ruling class. Our struggle for quality education is also fought in this terrain.
- In this context, you delegates have told us that, ours is to achieve a decisive and qualitative breakthrough in tackling the capitalist relations of production that are at the very foundations of Colonialism of a Special Type. These capitalist relations continue to form the basis of a colonial system in which blacks in general, and Africans in particular, remain subjected to extreme levels of exploitation and white domination in all aspects of life including in education. You have said that this perspective should also inform the transformation of process of our Education system.
- You, delegates have said that as a working class we have a responsibility to work with all the alliance formation and in particular with the ANC –led government to assert the radical content of the National Democratic Revolution which on among others include ensuring that our movement uses its political power to realise the vision articulated in the Freedom Charter which on among others says that “Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit; Adult illiteracy shall be ended by a mass state education plan; Teachers shall have all the rights of other citizens”
- In this context we go to the 11th Congress to consolidate and build on what the ANC Policy Conference have resolved on, which on among others said that order to provide free higher education to all undergraduate level students from poor and working class communities government should develop a policy for free higher education to all undergraduate level students, from poor and working class communities be finalised for the elective conference for phased implementation as soon as possible.
- We also go the 11th National Congress to build on the recommendations by the ANC‘s policy conference which recommended that the expansion of the post school education and training system to achieve the 2030 enrolment targets requires extensive infrastructure investment over the next 18 years including the construction of 5 Universities, 20 Teacher Education Campuses and 55 Further Education and Training Colleges.
- We will build on Government’s commitment to expand the FET sector. In this we will call on State-owned enterprises, government departments and municipalities to play a leading role in offering scholarships and internships to young people from tertiary institutions, especially from the FET sector.
- The state in general, must open the doors of learning in tertiary institutions, and provide the critical transition link between tertiary education and private-sector employment. The state must make the FET sector a sector of choice for school-leavers, through resourcing and employing graduates from the sector. We are encouraged by the fact that the President of the country has made this his personal project.
- We will continue to work with the Department of Higher Education to ensure the Alignment of the curriculum content of the schooling system, FET and HET sectors to the needs of the new growth path. This will include ensuring the following:
a) That the entire education system is integrated and that premature leakages are eliminated
b) That curriculum content addresses both the social and economic demands, in line with the new growth path and the type of society we want to build
c) That state institutions and the private sector grow sufficient demand to absorb the number of graduates that are being supplied by the tertiary education system—this will require planning capacity in the Department of Labour.
- 10. We will call for the re-skilling of existing unemployed graduates, fill all vacant posts. Some of the unemployed graduates can be trained so that they become educators in both the expanded schooling system and the FET sector . These graduates can also be trained to offer critical support to the departments in the social development and the criminal justice system clusters. NB: include in the declaration!
- Our calculation is that to meet the projected increase in the intake of the FET sector to 1 million students per annum by 2014, it is estimated that we need 20 000 more lecturers. This means that the sector must increase its intake by 150 000 per annum, from its current 400 000. The number of lecturers must increase by 5000 per annum.
- This conference has reaffirmed (a) the role that can be played by COSATU, its affiliates, and the broader democratic movement in resolving the education crisis, (b) The critical role of education in the economic growth path and in building the capacity of the state (d) The need to de-urbanise the provision of education and to ensure its accessibility to the rural and less developed areas (e) COSATU working with the alliance should drive the quality learning and teaching campaign.
- This conference has said that the top-heavy structure of the education system with 11 ministers, 11 DGs and 30 DDGs should change to reflect a focus on what should go on in the classroom which is effective teaching and learning. You have said that Food security and nutrition should be prioritized because it affects health which in turn has an impact in education performance by learners.
- We continue to draw our inspirations from what countries like CUBA have been able to achieve.
- Cuba's schools have been remarkably successful in achieving gender equity, reaching rural and disadvantaged populations, and fostering community participation, even in the context of rapidly dwindling resources.
- Cuba is a poor country, and the past decade has been particularly difficult economically. Yet the success of its schools flaunts conventional wisdom: Education in Cuba is entirely public, centrally planned, and free, in a global reform environment of privatization, downscaling of the state role, and cost recovery.
- The Cuban education system is characterized by the following :
a) Sustained and high levels of investment in education;
b) Consistent policy environment and political will in support of education for all;
c) Quality basic education, including early childhood and student health initiatives, literacy, adult and
d) non-formal education programs;
e) Universal access to primary and secondary school:
f) Complementary educational support systems: early childhood and student health, literacy, adult and non formal education;
g) Highly professional, well-trained teachers of high status:
h) Ongoing professional development of teachers:
i) Low-cost instructional materials of high quality:
j) Creativity on the part of local educators in adapting and developing instructional materials:
k) System-wide evaluation:
l) Solidarity within schools and classrooms; competition among schools and classrooms:
m) Significant community participation in school management:
n) Compensatory schemes for disadvantaged and rural children:
- o) Clear connections between school and work: and
p) An emphasis on education for social cohesion.
If the CUBANS have been able to do it and sustain its success even under conditions of sanctions imposed by the USA and compounded by the global economic crisis, we must ask ourselves a simple question, what can stop our revolutionary movement with a similar political will to achieve the same?
I wish all delegates a safe drive home....
The struggle continues!