Official Opening of the Agulhas School of Skills
24 May 2013
District Director of Overberg Education District Bertram Loriston Officials of the WCED Mr Andries Botha, Principal of Agulhas School of Skills Mnr Johannes and members of the School Governing Board (SGB) Distinguished Guests Educators Learners Parents Thank you for the kind invitation to be with you on this wonderful occasion. I am delighted to be here to celebrate the official opening of the Agulhas School of Skills. On my tour of this school earlier I was very impressed with the spirit of this school. I recall the decision made to convert the previous Napier High School into a School of Skills and looking at what I see before me today, it was a right decision. As a government, we are determined to ensure that all the children of the Western Cape are afforded the opportunity to receive the kind of quality education they deserve. The education needs of our learners, however, are diverse. As individuals we are all different in some way or another. We all have our own unique talents and skills and I am pleased that we can offer in this Province, a wide range of educational opportunities for our learners in order to accommodate the skills diversity. That is why schools such as Agulhas are extremely valuable to this Government as they provide important educational opportunities for those learners whose educational needs cannot easily be met in mainstream schools. Instead, learners, such as those present today, are offered a more relevant vocational, practical, technical but high skills curriculum in study fields such as welding, building construction, farming, hair dressing, hospitality studies and educare. We currently have over 7 000 learners enrolled at our Schools of Skills in the Western Cape. A further five public schools offer schools of skills services through skills units, accommodating an additional 700 learners. The importance attached to these institutions by this government is evident through the number of new Schools of Skills that have opened up in this province in recent years. Eight of the Eighteen Schools of Skills in the Western Cape have opened in just the last four years. This increased growth in School of Skills will hopefully translate into further job creation in this province. Job creation and economic growth are this Government’s top priorities. The job climate in South Africa is a difficult one where thousands of young people are competing every day for job opportunities and experience. The latest unemployment statistics contained in Census 2011 indicate that the expanded unemployment rate rides at 40 percent nationally, and at 29.3 percent in the Western Cape. While we have the lowest expanded unemployment rate in the country, we still need to ensure that our policy makers, labour, business and civil society do something about the youth unemployment challenge. The Western Cape Government believes that we have a crucial role to play in providing opportunities for our young citizens to empower and improve themselves so that they can live lives they value. Lack of practical experience is one of the main barriers to job market entry for young people. Training learners in valuable skills is just one way we can open the door of economic opportunity to young people. As a Government, we are constantly developing and finding ways to create even more opportunities. For example, in 2011 the Premier launched the Provincial Skills Development Forum which aims to create opportunities for the youth of the Western Cape. The forum brings together private sector employers, higher learning institutions and government departments to facilitate alignment between them and promote demand-led skills development. This enables numerous possibilities for maximising skills development and creating job opportunities in the Western Cape through practical interventions, such as bursaries and an expanded at-work training scheme, aimed specifically at addressing our youth unemployment. So where do our Schools of Skills fit into all of this? Our Schools of Skills serve as important building blocks in this plan. Learners with skills taught at institutions like Aghulas School of Skills can fit into the programmes created by the Premier’s Development Forum. It is our intention to create, together with further education, business and organised labour, tailor made programmes where young people, for instance, from our Schools of Skills are offered further training through internships or courses that will equip them with specific skills our economy needs and which are currently in short supply. It is an exciting initiative and is still a work in progress, but it sure to open up many wonderful opportunities for our Western Cape youth, and for those that attend our various Schools of Skills. But enough about job creation and skills development. Let’s talk about this new school. As with all new schools, we placed hope for them that their empty new classrooms would be transformed into hubs of teaching and learning, where learners and educators are safe and secure, and where quality learning takes place. This kind of responsibility falls on all of us here today. I like to think and believe that we are all in one big team – reaching for the same goal. So as school governors, educators, parents, education officials, community members and most importantly, learners – let us all make this school a success. Make this school the centre of your community and ensure that it not only remains clean, but is safe from any form of vandalism and theft. To the school governing body, you have a major responsibility which you exercise on behalf of this school. The hours you spend on the work of this school are a wonderful example of voluntary service which will benefit the school, its learners and the community. It is clearly evident that this school is being properly administered, maintained and managed and I am pleased to see this. To the parents, we want you to talk to your children about what they do at school each day, encouraging them to do their homework, their practicals and to study and also to speak to your chilldren’s educators about what they are doing in their school to build your children’s skills, and how they can help their children’s teachers. To the educators and leadership of this school - the futures of these learners lie in your hands and I wish you all success. The WCED is here to support your needs and we look forward to a long and positive working relationship together. Last, but not least, the learners – you have been afforded a wonderful opportunity to be at this school. Make the most of it! Not many learners get to take part in job-shadowing and skills development before they leave school. You do. So engage with your educators and make the right choices that will affect your life in the years to come. It’s not just about passing. It’s also about achieving the best you can so that you can move on successfully to the next phase of your life. Thank you.