For thousands of matriculants throughout the country a journey which began many years ago in Grade 1 is nearing an end. This a frantic time for both learners and their parents or guardians, but it is also a time filled with the promise of even greater opportunities that lie ahead.
On 28 October thousands of learners sat for the start of the month long 2013 National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams. These exams are the culmination of many years of hard work and are the platform for these young people to launch their desired futures.
Government is pleased that the first days of the NSC exams have gone off without a hitch. A total of 576 490 full time and 130 646 part time candidates registered for the 2013 NSC exams. Government is pleased to announce that reports coming in from all provinces indicate a good start, free of incidents or irregularities.
The incident free start to the NSC exams did not happen by chance. It is the result of months of planning and hard work that took place behind the scenes.
This year’s exams are taking place across more than 6 699 examination centres throughout the country. The exams are overseen by about 65 000 invigilators and will be marked by over 35 000 markers in 118 marking centres across the country. The exams end on 29 November and the class of 2013 will receive their results on 7 January 2014.
Over the next few weeks learners have the opportunity to apply what they have learned during their school careers. Education is truly the great equaliser; with dedication and hard work any learner can excel and lay the foundation for a brighter future.
These sentiments were echoed by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga in her annual message to the class of 2013. “Remember, your future is in your hands. Only you can make the choices that will determine your future,” she said.
The right to education is enshrined in our Constitution and has been prioritised by government since 1994. Government has consistently increased the budget allocation on education. In the 2013 National Budget education received R232,5 billion, out of the total budget of R1,06 trillion.
Government is therefore dismayed that learners and especially matriculants from the Bekkersdal township in Westonaria have been impeded from concentrating on their education due to the actions of disgruntled residents.
Government will continue to engage with the residents of Bekkersdal and is aware of the service delivery challenges in the area. The right to peaceful protest is protected in our Constitution, but regrettably the protests in the area have descended into anarchy, chaos and the wanton destruction of property.
The service delivery protests in the area have severely compromised the preparations of learners. The Department of Basic Education has since stepped in and is hosting about 450 grade 12 pupils from Bekkersdal at a special residential camp to ensure they write exams without disruption. Unfortunately learners have been forced to write their exams at an undisclosed location due to the protests, but they have the added benefit of receiving tuition for the duration of their stay at the camp.
The disruption of education in Bekkersdal is lamentable. Government calls on communities throughout the country to get behind the Class of 2013. Your support is vital in ensuring that these future leaders can learn in safe and conducive environments.
Government’s message to learners during this trying time is that education is their future and that of the generations still to come as this will ensure a prosperous country.
Parents and guardians are also encouraged to monitor the progress of learners in their care. Your support to learners is essential if they are to excel so that they may realise their career dreams. However, should learners not perform as expected it is important that they do not lose heart.
There are many options available for learners who wish to improve their results. Candidates may apply for re-marking or re-checking of examination answer scripts immediately after receiving their results. Candidates who qualify for supplementary examination can register at the centres where they sat for the exam immediately after receiving their results.
As this chapter of their life journey draws to a close many learners from the Class of 2013 will be looking forward to what comes next. Learners are encouraged to explore all available options and career choices.
Learners are also encouraged to explore studying at the recently launched University of Mpumalanga in Mbombela/Nelspruit. This university will specialise in agriculture, biodiversity, food security, natural resource management, nature conservation, wildlife management, plant and animal sciences, forestry and wood sciences and technology.
Others may choose to further their education at universities; or may opt to attend further education and training (FET) colleges or embark on entrepreneurial ventures. The Department of Higher Education has prioritised improving the quality of teaching and learning at FET colleges. These institutions are also an option for school leavers. By 2030, government projects to have increased the uptake of students in these institutions to about 2.5 million young people.
FET colleges are the ideal vehicle to impart skills to young people that are required to support economic growth and development. Courses at these colleges have been specifically developed to respond to the scarce skills needed by employers.
Government also assists tertiary students through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme which provides financial aid to academically deserving and financially needy students.
Government salutes the Class of 2013 and wishes them well over the next few weeks and into the future.
Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS)