Universal Childrens Day: Protecting and Nurturing our Children to Realise their Full Potential
Today is Universal Children’s Day - A day where across the world we honour children, and reflect on the progress that we have made in realising and promoting the rights of children. Today we should reflect on what we have done and what we are doing to protect, nurture and empower our children so that they may go on to lead lives that they value.
In the Western Cape, we believe that a quality education is the springboard from which our children may grow and develop, to become active participants in shaping our communities and the economy that drives our development as a nation.
Former President, Mr Nelson Mandela, once said that:
"Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farmworkers can become the president of a great nation."
Honourable Chairperson, if our education system is to support our social and economic development as well as develop the potential inherent in our children, we need to work better and smarter to ensure that more of our learners leave the education system with relevant knowledge and skills, and are better placed to pursue higher education opportunities and participate meaningfully in any working environment.
Today I would like to share with you some of the strategies that the Western Cape Government has adopted, to ensure that the education system in the Western Cape becomes the “great engine of personal development” that we need it to be. To achieve this, we believe that our learners should be leaving school with the ability to read, write, calculate and reason. This is possible where our learners have access to a school staffed with qualified teachers who are present, prepared and using texts. This school needs to have the necessary infrastructure and funding to accommodate the schooling needs of its learners, and should be managed by a competent and accountable principal. This school needs to be a safe environment within which quality teaching and learning can take place, free from violence and substance abuse and children can experience a cross-section of what life has to offer.
Since 2009, the Western Cape Government has developed and implemented a number of sustainable systems improvements to ensure:
• That we improve the literacy and numeracy levels of learners throughout the system.
• That we increase the number of learners who progress through the system and complete their schooling, as well as the number of learners who go on to pursue higher education and training opportunities.
• That we reduce the number of under-performing high schools in the province.
We are pleased to be seeing a positive trend in the performance of our public ordinary schools as a result of these interventions, particularly in the results achieved over the last two years in the National Senior Certificate examinations. Literacy and numeracy levels are improving but are not yet at an acceptable level. We have increased the number of learners completing Grade 12 with a Bachelor’s Pass. And we have reduced the number of underperforming high schools from 85 in 2009 to 30 in 2011.
Some of the systems improvements which we have made and which are unique to the Western Cape include the following:
• To ensure our classrooms are text-rich environments, we made an unprecedented commitment in 2010 to provide every learner with a textbook in each core subject that they are taking free of charge, and in addition to the national norm for textbook provisioning by 2014. We are well on our way to delivering on this commitment.
• To measure the progress that we are making in improving literacy and numeracy levels in the province and to set goals for improvement, we introduced systemic testing for all learners in Grades 3, 6.
• To monitor and improve the resourcing and performance of our schools, we have introduced an online management tool that requires each principal to submit and update a set of school-based information that can be used for effective planning purposes, including information relating to the procurement, delivery and use of textbooks and improvement goals for the NSC examinations, the Annual National Assessments and our systemic literacy and numeracy tests.
• As part of efforts to integrate ICT into our schools, we have developed an e-Education Vision that will see the expansion of our existing technology base and digital resources, and the introduction of appropriate solutions that are responsive to changing education needs. I will be releasing our annual progress report within the next week, setting out where we have made progress in achieving our strategic objectives in education in the Western Cape since 2009, and what we intend to do to address the challenges that we face in education going forward.
While are ensuring that more learners complete Grade 12 with a quality pass, we are also ensuring that more young people are better placed to develop their skills and pursue further learning and earning opportunities. We are doing this by working transversally with other provincial government departments, to create on-the-job skills development and training opportunities for our youth. The Premier of the Western Cape’s Youth Advancement Programme is a good example of this.
The Children’s Institute recently released the South African Child Gauge report for 2012. The important role that quality education can play in improving the life chances of our children is affirmed in this report where it is stated that:
Improving the quality of public education will involve ensuring an ordered environment for learning to take place. Part of the policy constellation for education should address whether available programmes support teachers sufficiently, and allow all learners to complete school on an equal footing. This has the potential to address the divide between rich and poor in the labour market and move towards breaking the cycle of inequality and poverty.
Honourable Chairperson, the Western Cape Government is committed to working better and smarter to ensure that more of our learners leave the education system with the knowledge and skills required to pursue higher education opportunities, and to participate meaningfully in any working environment. We believe that by providing a quality education to and creating skills development opportunities for our children, we are protecting and nurturing them to reach their full potential.