I would like to thank you very much for accepting the invitation to this ground-breaking occasion where the Department of Basic Education meets private sector entities supporting education, which is our number one national priority.
Last Friday marked the end of the examinations period, for all but matric learners, for the 2010 school year. I would like to begin by commending the Department of Basic Education, the provinces, districts, schools and learners for a smooth examination process. As for the remaining matric exams, I wish to encourage learners to do their best as they have been doing since the start of their exams.
We await the outcomes of the examinations with great anticipation, and we hope that our learners have done well despite the challenges faced during the year.
Positive examination results are a barometer not only of the learners’ achievement but also of what the efficiency of our education system is.
In a country such as ours beset by accumulated disabilities that limit people’s ability to enjoy the fruits of freedom, education is a single critical equaliser.
In other words, for a nation like ours to defeat social ills such as poverty and inequality, we need a strong education system that empowers ordinary South Africans to respond with confidence to the imperatives of modern society.
As proven elsewhere in the world, education plays a pivotal in the economic growth and development of a country.
To this end, tireless efforts revolving around skills development, research and innovation programmes often help countries to modernise and grow their economies.
Flowing from this consideration, government has consciously elevated education as one of our five priorities, the others being health, creation of jobs, rural development and fighting corruption.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Challenges in the education sector in our country are well-documented and the Minister of Basic Education has already detailed them.
In this regard, we continue to have backlogs in infrastructure and facilities, such as classrooms, laboratories, libraries and sporting amenities.
One of the tasks of improving the quality of our education remains the need to improve the capacity of educators who are entrusted with the academic and cognitive development of learners.
We have introduced a new curriculum which we are constantly improving to ensure that our education system is geared up to the developmental needs of a globalising world.
Many of our learners are still exiting the schooling system under-prepared for the world of work and life challenges. Some do so before even completing secondary education.
In addressing these challenges with the view to achieving our strategic objectives, strong partnerships are needed.
Therefore we are encouraged not only by this occasion but by the overwhelming response to the call for building partnerships in the education arena.
‘Working together we can do more’. Accordingly we see this occasion as a milestone towards cementing this partnership with the private sector that is already investing in our education system, and therefore, our future.
Let me echo the words of the Minister of Basic Education that we are indeed humbled by your continued commitment to improving our education through your various corporate initiatives, which, unfortunately, we do not have time to discuss today.
We do hope minister, that we will have an ample opportunity to share lessons and best practices with our private sector partners, since we have a great deal to learn from them.
As we are already doing in other sectors we can succeed in overcoming the challenges facing us in education if we work together.
Among the steps we need to take are the following:
· Developing a social partnership to improve the education system. Therefore your contribution in research for improving our education system is always welcome.
· Supporting initiatives to improve the functioning of schools. In this regard, your contribution in improving school management and governance is highly encouraged.
· For those contributing resources towards improving school facilities and infrastructure, we encourage you to continue this vital contribution and urge you to target rural and township schools as well. These schools still lack critical facilities such as laboratories and libraries.
· A developing nation such as ours will be much better served by consistent investment in adult education. In our case ECD and ABET are seriously lagging behind. Once again government would appreciate continued and better still, increased contribution, in our adult education.
· Importantly, experience has proven that most learners cannot successfully complete their studies in the education system because of lack of funds. Funding, such as bursaries and scholarships for promising but needy students is a matter of critical importance for our country.
· Teacher development is another critical area that requires attention in this partnership we are developing so that they are able to deliver quality content effectively.
In conclusion, I would like to urge you to continue your support of this important national priority. In the final analysis, the success of this partnership will be measured by noticeable improvements in the identified areas of need.
Finally, programmes and projects driven through this initiative ought to be:
· Scalable and replicable;
· Better targeted;
· Outcomes-driven; and
· Better coordinated.
I am optimistic that when we meet again in the near future we will receive some encouraging reports on how we are collectively taking this partnership to the next level.
One of the lessons we have learned from hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup is that if we set our eyes on a particular target and mobilise society behind it, we can indeed deliver excellent results!
Issued by The Presidency