National Teaching Awards – Provincial Awards
Premier of the Western Cape Government, Helen Zille
Head of the Western Cape Education Department, Penny Vinjevold
Senior management of the WCED, District Directors and officials
Members of the Teaching Profession and the WCED
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to be here tonight, celebrating excellence in teaching and honouring some of the outstanding teachers who inspire and motivate our children every day.
Nothing makes me happier than to acknowledge quality, excellence and professionalism in the education sector.
Before I focus on our award recipients, allow me for a minute to thank two people here tonight as my guests who have in their own way contributed significantly to where we are as a school system today.
Dr Knoetze was the interim Head of Department of the new WCED from 1995 and laid the foundations for the new combined department.
Professor Figaji is Chair of the Western Cape Education Council, which has provided excellent advice and guidance to the ministry and the WCED on a range of issues over the last three years. Thank you both for accepting my invitation to be here tonight.
Each of the 44 educators that we are honouring tonight has demonstrated commitment and dedication to the teaching profession. I congratulate each one of you on being nominated. There is a lot of competition out there so your presence tonight is an honour that you well deserve.
For your contribution towards excellence in our schools, I would like to publicly thank you.
Often our teachers are not recognised for the important roles they play both in our schools and within society. You often have to fulfill a role that goes beyond being a teacher in the narrow sense of the word.
Being a teacher these days requires much more than delivering a quality curriculum for our learners. In many cases, it requires more than it should.
The reality is that, it requires facing a wide range of challenges every day - such as gangsterism, drug abuse, an abused child, a community with little hope or ambition or a child that has special needs.
Gifted children, unrealistic parents and technological distractions are also challenges to the professional teacher. But perhaps the greatest of all challenges is responding to the belief that schools and teachers can solve virtually all the problems of our society. This is for teachers both a great compliment and a massive mountain to climb.
Despite these challenges, you go selflessly beyond the call of duty to ensure that your learners receive the best quality tuition and a fair chance to live the lives that they deserve.
Creatively, lovingly, and caringly you have opened the door for further opportunities for our learners.
You inspire me. You inspire us all. You deserve our thanks.
Every day I feel blessed to be a Minister for Education in a province where we have such committed and dedicated educators.
The challenges teachers face, as described earlier, are made all the more demanding by the reality that contrary to popular belief, children are not blank pages on which we write a story – their story.
They are independent and critical thinkers and are increasingly likely to challenge the existing order.
A harmless, but interesting example of this was received in the ministry earlier this year which I would like to share with you.
The ministry received an email from a Grade 5 learner, which said the following:
“I am a student of primary school. I don’t enjoy these blue books and I don’t find it very educational. In my opinion I think it was a bad idea from the start. To me it is like torture at school. I think it would be a good idea to make less pages in the book.”
We followed this through with the appropriate curriculum officials and the school. The blue book in question is still in my office.
You see that even the Minister gets challenged on the odd occasion by these learners!
Tonight’s celebration is, of course, not the end of this process. I would sincerely like to wish all our winners the best of luck in the national round of the teaching awards.
Last year we had two of our educators from the Western Cape who won first prize in their categories, another educator who received a third place award and yet another educator who received a special award.
It certainly would be wonderful if we can repeat this success.
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your evening.