"Our Teachers – Our Inspiration"
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.
Each of the 33 people that we are honouring here tonight has demonstrated commitment and dedication to the teaching profession.
For your contribution towards excellence in our schools I would like publically to thank you.
We recognise your outstanding loyalty and devotion to your learners, and we are so very proud of your achievements.
I have to admit, I have been blown away by the competition this year. While reading some of your motivations, I realised just how much your profession is misunderstood and sometimes even misrepresented.
Being a teacher these days requires much more then delivering a quality curriculum for our learners. In many cases, it requires more than it should. However, from what I have read you all go about it with both ease and optimism.
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.
Each of you is faced with a range of challenges every day – we have sadly become used to hearing about - gangsterism, drug abuse, an abused child, a community with little hope or ambition, or a child that has special needs. But we forget that gifted children, unrealistic parents, technological distractions and the central importance our society attaches to schooling, are also challenges to the professional teacher.
Creatively, lovingly, and caringly you have opened the door for further opportunities for our learners.
You inspire me. You inspire us all.
I have come to realise that many of you are more to these learners than a teacher. You are carers, parents, friends and mentors.
For example, one educator here tonight has taken it upon herself to provide and care for her special needs learners at her own expense by taking them to the clinic for hearing and sight testing; covering the cost of hearing aids and spectacles should their parents not be able to pay for them.
Another educator present here has ensured that each of his learners has an e-mail address, an ID and bank account, giving them advice and tools that will empower them individually no matter what their circumstance.
These are just two examples. There are many more like them, both here tonight and across the province.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to all our educators that work in areas where there is high gang activity. Recently, we have seen an increase in gang violence in some areas, and I visited one of these schools this morning in order to assess the challenges they face.
Some of the educators dread driving into work every morning. Yet they make that journey every day, not only having to face their own fears, but to also be confronted with frightened and traumatised young learners affected by violent events.
I would like to also honour these educators tonight and others in similar circumstances, who work in these very difficult and extreme situations. We admire and value their courageous efforts in trying to create and secure a stable teaching and learning environment for our learners, when there is violence and fear within the community and in their schools.
These educators are also an inspiration to us.
I feel blessed to be a Minister for Education in a province where we have such committed and dedicated educators.
While our educators are extremely valuable to us, and it is fit and proper that we honour them tonight, they bring even greater value to our learners.
The other day, I picked up my copy of the "Thank you teacher" booklet we delivered to educators on World Teachers Day in 2010.
The book contains messages from learners from across the province to their teachers.
It was a stark reminder of the various roles our educators play and the value they bring to these young learners' lives.
I would like to share with you some examples.
Lwandiso Nogwelela wrote:
"My teacher, my teacher, what can I say about you?
What words can I use for my teacher?
She is a friend to me
She is a parent to me
She is everything to me. Thank you my teacher."
Keagan Fredericks wrote to his teacher:
"I would like to give you this poem – 'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step'
He then went on to say to his teacher: You are the one who taught me how to take that single step."
Rukshana Parker wrote a salute to dedicated teachers:
"Warriors without swords and shields
But with a pen mightier than the sword
And a paper more enduring than a shield."
There is no doubt that here in this room tonight we have 33 warriors.
Congratulations. I salute you all.
You are our inspiration.