President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for the abolishment of mud schools in the country.
Ramaphosa, who addressed the Basic Education Lekgotla at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park, Gauteng, on Thursday, said the time had arrived for mud schools to be a thing of the past.
He called for the intensification of the provision of appropriate structure, infrastructure, sanitation, water and electricity supply to all schools.
"We must ensure that the mud schools of yesteryear are forever banished to the past and are in the dustbins of our history and that all our children go to toilets in safe and hygienic conditions. We must ensure our schools are free of violence, drugs, dangerous weapons, bullying, gangsterism, sexual abuse and sexual harassment," he said.
The president encouraged teachers to ensure that all pupils can read and write at an early age. He encouraged teachers to also read in order to encourage others.
"All our learners have to be able to do a whole number of things related to those tests. They should be able to read for meaning by their tenth birthday. Our Mathematics and Physical Science pass rates should be comparable with, if not better than, nations of similar size and budget."
He said he received complaints from citizens that Early Childhood Development (ECD) was missing from basic education and he is now satisfied that this will be rectified.
"I am happy that our basic education is on the rise," he said.
He congratulated the class of 2019 for achieving outstanding results.
"In many ways we have shown that together, if we work hard, hard work pays off. This year, we were able to touch 80% and go beyond. Those are absolutely wonderful results and [we] say to everyone who played a role - well done.
"The problem with success is that it has to breed further success. And now that you have touched that Holy Grail, it means that you have to keep on doing so. Next year we are expecting way beyond what we achieved.
"In achieving these results, many schools had to overcome a number of challenges that are imposed by resource constraints, protests we had in our communities over a number of issues and challenges that many schools and communities had to face, like alcohol and drug abuse and many social ills," he said.
Ramaphosa mentioned Ribane Laka High School in Mamelodi, Tshwane, which achieved a 97% pass rate against all odds.
He encouraged all other schools to emulate the methods applied by the school and especially the collaboration of parents and teachers in Saturday lessons, which have been credited for the school's success.
"To improve the foundational skills of our young people, particularly numeracy and literacy, especially reading for meaning... It is for these reasons that reading for meaning is declared an apex priority.
"Research has shown us that to thrive in the changing world, our learners require a new breath of skills. These skills are still rooted in academic competency such as literacy, numeracy and science, but also include teamwork, critical thinking, communication, persistence and creativity," Ramaphosa said.