Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, says the basic education ecosystem must be strengthened so that it is future proof against the subsequent pandemics.
Motshekga was giving an opening address on Wednesday at the annual Basic Education Sector Lekgotla held at Emperors Palace, Kempton Park.
The three-day national event brings together provincial education departments, teacher unions, school governing body organisations, learner organisations, non-governmental organisations, academics, international guest speakers and other stakeholders.
The Theme for 2022 is: “Equipping Learners with Knowledge and Skills for a Changing World in the Context of COVID-19”. The overall focus of the Lekgotla will be the recovery plan for basic education after two years of disruptions.
Motshekga said that basic education is so crucial that there’s evidence it strengthens democracies, improves the nation’s health outcomes and contributes significantly to economic growth.
“Thus, Basic education remains an apex priority of this government. And as such, it is critical to continuously assess the performance of this crucial sector because we carry the hopes and dreams of our people on our broad shoulders,” Motshekga said.
The Basic Education Lekgotla comes days after the Minister announced the results of the Matric Class of 2021.
The Minister has congratulated all those who passed and encouraged those not yet successful not to despair.
“We must understand the pass rate of 76.4% for the Matric Class of 2021 in the context that this cohort endured two years of schooling under the Covid-19 disruptions, including intermittent closures,” she said.
Motshekga has urged those who want to improve their marks to use the long-standing innovative programmes such as the Second Chance Matric which helps young people obtain their matric qualifications.
“As a department, we must do more to support vulnerable learners, increase retention and stem the tide of dropouts; this programme is part of our last-ditch effort in this regard,” she said.
More contact teaching in 2022
The Minister has encouraged more young people to vaccinate against the COVID-19 virus and teachers on J&J single-shot vaccine to get their booster shot soonest.
According to research, the sector lost at least 50% of curriculum time due to rotational timetabling and intermittent closures.
“As a Government, we are mulling over options to mitigate against losing contact teaching time in 2022 and beyond.
“We have recommended to the National Coronavirus Command Council to reduce the social distancing measures in our classrooms,” she said.
Motshekga said the sector’s ideal is to have all learners receiving contact teaching time at the same time to mitigate against dropouts, increase retention rates and prevent failures.
She said research shows that learners from disadvantaged communities are more likely to drop out of the schooling system due to rotational timetabling as they miss out on routines and school services such as feeding schemes and health services.
“Our responsibility as Government is to offer the highest standard of basic education to our learners in a safe and secure environment,” she said.
Improving learner outcome
The Minister said the sector needs to pay a singular focus to improve learner outcomes throughout the system.
She emphasised the need for a new social compact in basic education.
“For instance, we lag behind our peers in parents’ participation in children’s schooling, especially in historically disadvantaged communities. We must be the change that we want to see in others.
She said that there must be a paradigm shift in schooling communities that must-see teachers held accountable for poor learner outcomes.
“There must be a push back against the callous manoeuvres by certain community members to use public schools as a political bargaining chip. We must see teachers displaying compassion virtue as many of our learners come from diverse communities, child-headed households, high crime levels, unemployment, and various social ills,” the minister said.
“As a Government, we must reimpose the state’s authority against those who loot, burn and vandalise public schools.”
She added that this change must find particular resonance in how we muster the capacities of the social partners to improve the quality of our education in line with the dictates of the National Development Plan (NDP).
“We must be bold in our attempts to focus the nation on the virtues of basic education that ultimately will lead to better job prospects for the children of domestic workers, waste pickers and other marginalised members of our society,” she said.
Motshekga urged the sector to serve the people of this great nation with honour and to ensure a Better Life for All.
She noted the need to intensify the work to restore the capacity of the state, to protect the multi-billion-rand investment in basic education.
“Ultimately, we must never cease in our mission to build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations,” she said.