Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the official handover of Enhlanhleni, Lembe and Ingweni Phaphama Primary Schools
Programme Director and MEC for Education, Mr Mthandeni Dlungwane,
Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga,
Acting Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Sihle Zikalala,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Mayors and Councillors,
Traditional and religious leaders,
Members of School Governing Bodies,
Board Members and staff of the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation and Adopt-a-School Foundation,
Our esteemed principals and teachers,
Parents and learners,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and an honour to be with you all for the official handover of these three primary schools.
For hundreds of learners, for their families, for their communities, this is a moment of renewal and of hope.
For this province and for the country more broadly, this is a celebration of the potential of partnership in meeting our development needs.
We know that we will not achieve a better life for all unless we give our people - through education - the capacity to realise their potential and break the cycle of poverty.
It is only through universal quality basic education that we will be able to equip our children with the set of skills needed to navigate the demands and challenges of the 21st century.
It is for this reason that successive democratic administrations have focused on basic education and policies to increase the prospects of a better life for all our children.
Today, around 17 percent of the consolidated government budget - more than R230 billion - is spent on basic education alone.
We have made significant progress in making education accessible to the poor.
Some 80 percent of schools are now no fee schools, and nine million nutritious meals are served to learners throughout the country every school day.
It is significant that nearly 60% of the learners who passed matric in 2017 were recipients of social grants.
We have steadily closed the apartheid education spending gap, directing more resources towards black learners from poor communities.
Yet, despite this progress, inequality is still very much in evidence in thousands of schools across the country, where the lack of basic infrastructure impedes effective learning and teaching.
Learners are often compelled to attend school in inappropriate, uncomfortable, unsafe and degrading conditions.
That is the situation that we are gathered here to correct.
By handing over these three schools today, we are asserting the rights of all our children to good education in decent schools with appropriate structures, water, electricity and sanitation.
Through the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative - or ASIDI - we are confronting the cruel legacy of apartheid which, after 25 years of democracy, still forces some of our learners to learn under trees or in schools constructed from materials such as mud, planks and asbestos.
We are not only building classrooms and providing desks.
We are building complete schools with administration blocks for school principals and management teams.
The complete schools we are building come equipped with media centres, libraries and laboratories, as well as nutrition centres for learners.
Through ASIDI, we are changing the landscape of school communities around the country.
There are more than 100 schools currently under construction.
Over the last two decades, we have added around 39,000 additional classrooms and over 1,200 new schools in South Africa.
We know that appropriate infrastructure is necessary for an effective schooling environment, but that it is not buildings that define a school.
It is significant therefore that in building and renovating these three primary schools, government has partnered with Adopt-a-School Foundation, a non-profit organisation that has developed an innovative approach to Whole School Development.
Having been involved with Adopt-a-School over the last 17 years, I have seen how this holistic model has been developed, tested and reviewed - and has produced impressive results in over 500 schools.
In addition to demolishing the mud structures and constructing new facilities for all three schools, Adopt-a-School has also been running advocacy and strategic planning workshops.
As a result, strategic plans have been put into action in each school.
Skills development interventions have included everything from librarian training to educator development in early childhood development, mathematics, science, ITC, language, literacy and numeracy.
Using its community-based infrastructure model, the Foundation has provided temporary employment for the parents of learners and transferred skills to local people in an effort to empower the school community.
The Foundation uses local companies and small community businesses for the procurement of materials and various services.
Through the work on these three schools, over 250 temporary job opportunities have been created.
Among other things, this approach keeps construction costs down, allowing more resources to be dedicated towards leadership development and curriculum support.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The investment that we have made in education since the advent of democracy has resulted in a steady improvement in educational outcomes.
The matric pass rate has climbed substantially over the past 24 years from a low base of 53 percent in 1994 to 78 percent in 2018.
The number of South Africans aged 15 years and older who completed matric has trebled over the last two decades.
Higher education enrolment figures have increased from 150,000 in 1994 to around a million students enrolled for university studies today.
We mention these achievements at matric and in higher education at the handing over of primary schools precisely because the success of our education system is entirely dependent on what we do at our primary schools.
Primary schools are the foundation upon which our future is built - both as individuals and as a nation.
By handing over these three primary schools today and many others to come through ASIDI, we are securing and guaranteeing the future not only of our children but also of our country as a whole.
All of us - especially the teachers and parents - must spare neither effort nor strength in encouraging our children to take full advantage and make the best of the learning opportunities we are placing at their disposal.
In just under a week's time, on 23 April, South Africa will join many around the world in celebrating World Book Day.
This is a perfect opportunity to promote reading among primary school learners as one of the most enjoyable, enlightening and important learning activities.
Early childhood reading is essential to an effective education and success in life.
I call on you as learners - our greatest and most valuable asset - to be ambitious, to have a dream, to be disciplined, to come to school on time, to listen to the instructions of your teachers, to do your homework, to participate in sports, and above all, to study hard and progress to the next grade.
To the people of KwaZulu-Natal, we are handing over to you these primary schools so that you can use them to nurture the talents of our children and equip them with the knowledge and skills for a changing world.
These schools must be defined by an embedded culture of teaching and learning.
They must nurture a cohort of children who are ever ready for higher forms of learning.
They must produce citizens that are conscious of and committed to the ideal of a truly united nation defined by non-racialism, non-sexism, democracy and shared prosperity.
Working together - as government, teachers, parents, unions and the community at large - let us make this official handover of three primary schools be the beginning of an exciting and meaningful journey of learning for all our children.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency