President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on the basic education sector to carve a new path of progress by focusing on numeracy and literacy with special emphasis on the importance of reading.
This, as the New Year ushers in the last decade of the National Development Plan.
"We want to ensure that by 2030, South Africans have access to education and training of the highest quality, leading to significantly improved learning outcomes.
"All our learners 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.
The President made these remarks during his address at the annual Basic Education Sector Lekgotla in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, taking place from 15 to 17 January 2020.
Hosted by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, the three-day national event brings together provincial education departments, teacher unions, SGBs, learner organisations, NGOs, academics, international guest speakers and other stakeholders.
The President applauded the department and sector for their historic 81.3% matric pass rate achievement, adding that it shows an improvement in the education system.
"The impressive 2019 matric pass rate is in line with recent local and international studies that indicate that our system of basic education is on the rise," he said.
District Development Model
President Ramaphosa said by taking advantage of the recently launched District Development Model - also known as the Khawuleza Model - government will be able to deliver quality education.
"Our schools and the entire education sector will benefit from integrated planning, better coordination and accelerated delivery of non-core responsibilities such as sanitation, infrastructure, electrification, water and roads," said the President.
Through the District Development Model, collaboration between departments and the different spheres of government will be improved to offer multi-disciplinary solutions to community challenges.
By leveraging on the District Development Model, President Ramaphosa said South Africa will move to the next frontier of economic development, in which basic education plays a key role.
"Our immediate task as government is to improve the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy, especially reading for meaning.
"It is for this reason that reading for meaning has now been declared an apex priority," he said.
In line with this, the President said the main thrust of government's plan is to ensure reading for meaning across the curriculum, in all grades, and in all schools throughout the country.
"As society we need to socialise all our learners and young people into becoming life-long readers," he said.
Virtual book club
With a goal to get the nation lost in a book, President Ramaphosa said he would soon launch a virtual book club in an effort to turbocharge reading across the country.
Known as the President's Reading Circle, this virtual book club will allow readers to share their views on the books with the President, through the chat service on the club's website.
"I encourage those of you who have not already done so to sign up," said the President.