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Minister Angie Motshekga: World Teachers' Day 2020

5 Oct 2020

Virtual Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Celebration of the 2020 World Teachers' Day, 05 October 2020

Deputy Minister: Dr Makgabo Reginah Mhaule

Basic Education Director-General: Mathanzima Mweli

UNESCO officials;

DBE officials

Teachers from all provinces;

Social Partners such as SACE, NECT; ELRC and the ETDP Seta; and

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my honour and privilege to speak at this auspicious occasion as we celebrate the 2020 World Teachers' Day.

I stand before you today to say that all South African teachers are the pride and joy of our country. You're truly a national treasure worth celebrating every day.

On behalf of all basic education political principals, I extend our heartfelt appreciation to all our teachers. You're the pillar of our basic education system.

You have worked tirelessly during the most uncertain period in our history as we battle the novel pathogen, Covid-19 pandemic.

I am happy to announce that all our teachers heeded the call to return to school since the lapse of working from the home arrangement as part of the country's measures to combat the spread of the virus.

Sadly, some teachers have succumbed to the virus and other ailments. We send our deepest condolences to the bereaved families. Your loss cuts deep into our souls. Be comforted that your loved ones have run their race. Ours is to pick up the spear and soldier on. The dearly departed will continue to live amongst us in our hearts. You will surely be missed.

We convene today amid hope rising from the horizon. It is clear that SA, working in tandem with the international community, faced the storm, and now we are beyond the COVID-19 peak. We are at this stage, Programme Director, because right from the beginning we adopted, "a whole of government" and "whole of society" approach to the measures employed to arrest the spread of the virus. Despite our recent successes, fears for a second COVID-19 wave abound.

As head of the World Health Organisation has stressed, we have to do everything in our power, both as individuals and as Government to prevent the resurgence of this deadly pandemic.

Programme Director; we have to realise as a society that we must learn to coexist with the virus. Our best response remains non-pharmaceutical measures such as wearing of face marks and other methods as there is still no cure or a vaccine. This informed our novel hard national lockdown enacted earlier, followed by the risk-adjusted strategy of easing restrictions. This cautious approach has contributed significantly to limiting the spread of the coronavirus and helped us buy time to build capacities for case management.

Despite the good news that we have reached beyond the COVID-19 pandemic peak, we remain at risk. The virus isn't on level two or level one. Our mammoth task now is the mobilisation of society for the behavioural change needed as we ramp up non-pharmaceutical interventions as a new way to coexist with the virus.

Yet, we remain steadfast in our belief that there is a need to balance saving lives versus livelihoods. We remain committed to our moral and constitutional obligations to save lives, first and foremost.

Programme Director; the 2020 World Teachers' Day marks the 72nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises education as a key fundamental right and establishes an entitlement to free compulsory education, ensuring inclusive and equitable access for all children. I am honoured to speak today as we celebrate the light holders of society. As we celebrate, the teaching profession, we have a responsibility to take stock of our achievements. At the same time, we must pause and reflect on some of the binding constraints that prevent us from keeping some of the brightest minds and young talents in the profession.

Nonetheless, as a country, we are very proud of the calibre of all our teachers that we have in our system. Thank you for staying, firstly in South Africa, and secondly in the public schooling teaching environment. We are aware that our teachers work in unfavourable conditions generated by environmental factors such as the prevalence of crime, poverty and burden of diseases. Yet, your experience and qualifications are in demand beyond our borders. Thank you for staying! We love you!

As cliché as it may sound, I must say teachers in the South African basic education system are indispensable. Moreover, they are critical in our efforts to steer our country back into the critical growth path after years of inertia, state capture and general malfeasance. Without the over 400 000 teachers on the payroll of the State servicing over 12 million children, the system will collapse.

It is not a cliché to say our teachers are and will remain the heartbeat of any serious basic education department.  We salute all of you. Your country is proud of your exploits. As a country, we must do more to show appreciation to our teachers. Our teachers deserve extra support through both monetary and non-monetary measures for their tenacity, expertise and staying power.

Some education researchers that are yet to develop a compulsive perpetual negative narrative about our sector have described our education system as, 'better resourced with lower pupil-teacher ratios, and better-qualified teachers.'

Furthermore, to paint a global picture, education economists say approximately 3% of the economically active population in our country are teachers in the public system.

The teachers' wage bill accounts for approximately 3.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Personnel spending comprises more than 80% of education spending, that's 80 percent of roughly over R262. billion in the 2019/20 MTEF cycle. Since 2015, the Government expenditure on education stood at a massive 20 percent.

Programme Director, over the years falsehoods have been told about our teachers. Lies and half-truths have been repeated so often that they have grown three legs. In other words, falsehoods and scarecrows sustain the notion of the so-called 'education crisis in South Africa.' There's no education crisis in South Africa. In fact, numerous independent research findings, and our data shows that 'we are a system on the rise.' 

Let's deal with myth number 1, 'South African teachers are not qualified.' This is nothing but a tissue of lies.

Programme Director, we have greatly improved the quality of our teachers. Only 54 percent of teachers were qualified in 1994, but today out of over 400 000 teachers, only a statistically insignificant number is still completing their qualifications.

According to the Centre for Development & Enterprise (CDE) latest (March 2015) report, 'it produced some noteworthy and surprising findings of the current teaching force.' See even the researchers were surprised by the results.

The CDE used data based on over 400, 000 teachers, who were South African citizens between the ages of 22 and 65, from the Annual School Survey (ASS) data, it produced the following profile of the South African teaching force:

  • Eighty-one per cent qualified: 66 per cent had an M+3 qualification, and 15 per cent had an M+4.
  • Nineteen per cent unqualified: In education terminology, an unqualified teacher is a person who doesn't have an initial teacher training or postgraduate teaching certificate, yet they have the necessary three-year diploma/degree in a subject they teach.
  • In 2013, we had 10 per cent of teachers who had the equivalent of an M+3 qualification, but no professional teaching qualification, and about another 10 per cent had an M+2 or lower.

Just to show that our teachers are life-long learners between 2012 and 2013, 31 per cent of teachers upgraded from unqualified to qualified while in employment, this exceeded the 22 per cent of new teacher graduates who entered the profession for the first time in 2013. This trend has continued over the years.

This suggests that the majority of teachers build up their qualifications on the job, often over many years. In fact, by 2017, the number of unqualified teachers was less than 5000, including the underqualified teacher cohort.

Interestingly, Programme Director nationally, the supply of newly qualified teachers had almost tripled over the five years to 2017, growing from 5939 in 2008 to 25 877 in 2017. Thus, the CDE report concluded that if the number of graduates continues to increase, South Africa will be able to produce sufficient teachers for the next decade, from 2015 to 2025.

The CDE report says these new teachers will 'maintain the current learner to educator ratio (LER) of 29.2 learners to 1 teacher for the whole system.' This is of course as a result of growing our own timber through the Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme. Some optimistic experts now expect South Africa to have a surplus of 81 725 teachers by 2025. Thousands more Funza Lushaka bursaries have been awarded to student teachers, this year alone, at the cost of over 1 Billion rands.

Since its inception in 2007 to 2018, we have awarded a whopping 134 211 Funza Lushaka bursaries at the cost of R8.36 billion. This number excludes thousands funded through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, not to mention those who paid from non-state sources for their initial teacher education training.  Despite this success, we have no desire to take our foot off the accelerator.

Programme Director, I am happy to announce that we are currently finalising an analysis of teacher supply, demand and utilisation in the sector. After the study, we will provide a comprehensive report to the Council of Education Ministers (CEM).

We are also in the process of the reprioritisation of the Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme's priority areas. This is a response to emerging areas of specialisation occasioned by amongst others the 4th Industrial Revolution and new policy imperatives.

For teachers already in employment, opportunities to diversify their teaching offering abounds.  In this 2019 alone, we offered computer skills training to over 43,774 teachers.  In the same year, we enrolled some 72,000 teachers in Coding pedagogy with one of the prestigious and largest universities on this continent, the University of South Africa (UNISA). 

As you know Coding as a subject is piloted in several schools across the country. Our partners include giants such as Google, Teen Geeks and other businesses that are also supporting us to develop a Coding platform that uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to customise teaching and learning.

As you already know, plans are also afoot to introduce a Robotics curriculum from Grade R-9. The curricula will ensure that our schooling system produces learners with the foundations for future work, and equip them with skills for the changing world.

Centuries ago, people who could read and write were in a position of power and controlled both the present and the future.

Now, when our world relies on technology, people with tech-related skills have more options to be successful and shape their future instead of being passive consumers of technology.

Our thinking is that our funding for new student teachers should be in line with emerging priorities such as the need for qualified ECD practitioners in anticipation of the revamped ECD sector, digital learning, focus schools, and the three stream-model curricula.     

Obviously, certain areas need improvements such as lower rate of women leaders in education. According to the teaching and learning international survey (TALIS) 2018, 60% of teachers in South Africa were female which compared reasonably well with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 68%.  However, the TALIS also indicated that only 22% of principals are female. This is less than half of the OECD average of 47%. In comparison, 51% of principals in Saudi Arabia are female. We are seized with a matter of low participation rates of women in Principalship. If I had my way, South Africa would have 51 percent of women principals by 2025.

Our Policy on the South African Standard for Principalship will play an essential role in guiding the selection process and capacity building programme for principals in particular women.

Besides, we have launched a unique qualification for Principalship, namely the Advanced Diploma in Education (ADE): School Leadership which in the future will form part of a criterion for anybody aspiring to be a principal.  We encourage women teachers to take up space and prepare to lead us into the future. There's no time like today.

I thank you.

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