Address by His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, at the Annual National Teaching Awards, Gallagher Estate, Midrand

07 March 2013

Photo of: President Jacob Zuma
Minister and Deputy Minister of Basic Education,
Education MECs,
Parents, educators, leaders of teacher unions,
Business and community partners as well as adjudicators,
Distinguished Guests,

Good evening and thank you for making the Annual National Teaching Awards your priority for tonight. 

The Annual National Teaching Awards, now in their 13th year, are one of the essential instruments to recognise and acknowledge teachers who have displayed excellence in the schools and classrooms.

This is therefore an important occasion for us as it allows an opportunity to celebrate our excellent performers in the teaching profession.

Through these awards we are able to prove that the majority of teachers are professionals who are dedicated to their work.

The awards focus public attention on the positive aspects of education.

They recognise and promote excellence in the teaching profession. They honour dedicated, creative and effective teachers and schools. And lastly they afford the South African community the platform to publicly thank devoted and diligent teachers.

As you know, education is our apex priority as government, which we have consistently emphasised, so that everyone in the country realise that it is an essential function for our nation.

Education is indispensable to social and economic development and to the future of our youth. All successful nations invest in education. 

Learning from them, we are doing the same as a new nation.

Education in our country was used as an instrument of subjugation. We want it to be an instrument of liberation and empowerment.

With education we can advance the ideals of our Constitution. We can promote democracy, non-racialism, non-sexism, a decent standard of living and security for all and fight inequality.

On the 15th of August last year, the National Planning Commission submitted to my office the National Development Plan (NDP), the vision of the country for the next 20 years.

The NDP is a long-term strategic plan of what the Government wants to achieve by 2030 to ensure that all South Africans attain a decent standard of living through elimination of poverty and reduction of inequality.

Among the core elements of a decent standard of living identified in the NDP is education.

We emphasise therefore that an investment in education is a prerequisite for building a country that works, and most importantly, that advances the ideals of our Constitution.  

For us to make education an essential service in the country, our teachers must play their part.

They must turn the image of the profession around. Through professional conduct like coming to school on time and doing their work diligently, the teaching profession will regain the respect of the community.

We will revert to the situation years ago where teachers were revered members of the community that people looked up to.

We want children to look up to the teachers and learn from them more than the formal curriculum.

Through watching the conduct of teachers, learners must want to be successful, respectful and to be good citizens who will take the country forward to prosperity.

Our teachers therefore carry an enormous responsibility on their shoulders. They carry the dreams and hopes of the nation.

The manner in which they raise and nurture our precious children, will help us build the model South African citizen. We will build the country that national heroes such as Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Chief Albert Luthuli, Ruth First, Dorothy Nyembe, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and many heroes and heroines sacrificed life’s comfort to establish.

Those who do not believe in the noble vision of our forebears do not belong in the profession. They will continue giving the profession a bad name and besmirch the name of all teachers, including those who are dedicated to their work.

The teachers that we celebrate today have spent most of their time contributing to this noble cause of building model citizens.

Naturally teachers cannot achieve these goals alone. We must support them.

We have done a lot since the advent of democracy to improve the working conditions of educators, including compensation, teacher supply and utilisation.

Decent salaries and conditions of service will play an important role in attracting, motivating and retaining skilled teachers.

That is why we are to establish a Presidential Remuneration Commission which will investigate the remuneration and conditions of service provided by the State to all its employees, starting with teachers.

We also have a responsibility to supervise the profession and ensure that when we say teachers must be in school on time teaching, it actually happens.

Therefore, discussions are continuing on a new performance management system for educators at the Education Labour Relations Council.

Our priorities for 2013 include reducing teacher absenteeism and raising levels of accountability.

Managers must manage properly. We will also be working with teacher unions, impressing the value of professional conduct upon their members.

We know as well, that for teachers to work efficiently, they should work in habitable schools.

On 10 December 2012, the President’s Infrastructure Coordinating Committee launched the National School Build Programme and government has committed more funding for school infrastructure.

We are working on two national programmes. There is a provincially driven programme with a national budget of R8.5 billion and the national Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative with an allocation of R8.2 billion of which R3.1 billion is already committed to projects being implemented.

We are also investing in teacher development to improve the state of education in the country.

We intend to strengthen and use the existing 112 Teacher Centres and five provincial teacher development institutes to provide more support to teachers at the local level.

We also encourage collaboration with other institutions and organisations such as Higher Education Institutions, NGOs, Unions, and Private Sector on teacher professional development initiatives.

Thus, the establishment of Professional Development Institutes by unions represent an important shift and breakthrough in the teacher development landscape.

We also want to promote training for principals and deputy principals through the Continuing Professional Teacher Development system.

The Minister of Basic Education will organize provincial visits to promote this important programme of providing senior managers in schools with professional development support.

Ladies and gentlemen;

Our targets as government also include filling vacant posts and attracting young people to the teaching profession.  We want to build a cadre of teachers that would qualify for the excellence awards in the future.

The Minister of Higher Education re-opened the Siyabuswa College of Education recently.

This is part of expanding teacher training in the country as part of investing in education.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am passionate about education because I never had an opportunity to go to school. I want to see South Africa’s children having a good quality education.

I want see our youth receiving training opportunities that youth during our time never had because of apartheid colonialism.

Our government is therefore happy that many partners share this passion for education and a skilled nation. I am happy that several partners have sponsored today’s event.

Partnerships are very crucial if we are to achieve our human resources development goals.

Another important development in making education a societal issue is the NEDLAC Accord on Basic Education which was signed in 2011 and is being implemented.

Once more I would like to express profound thanks to all role players   for supporting education.

It is through our collective efforts that in 2012 we achieved a national average pass of 73.9% in National Senior Certificate exams.

The awards are now in their 13th year.  We have tightened the selection criteria and have urged provinces to do the same, to ensure that we identify the very best teachers in the system.

Achievers represent over 365 447 educators. The selection process was therefore a mammoth task. We thank all adjudicators for their meticulous work.

These teachers are the pride of our nation. They demonstrate the excellence which we should all aspire to.  They uphold our call for more focus on the Triple Ts – Teachers, Textbooks and Time. We congratulate them, and are very proud of them.

Esteemed guests;

The National Teaching Awards are for the following categories: 
- Excellence in Primary School Teaching
- Secondary School Teaching
- Primary School Leadership
- Secondary School Leadership
- Grade R Teaching
- Special Needs Teaching and
- Adult Basic Education & Training.
- We also confer a Lifetime Achievement Award to teachers with a minimum of 30 years of unbroken service.

Last year, we introduced two new awards:

- A special Ministerial Award named after the former Minister of Education, Prof Kader Asmal – the Professor Kader Asmal Award;
- The People’s Choice Award, which is for educators who have inspired learners to achieve excellence in the classroom and have served as their role-models and for communities.

I salute all schools and teachers, particularly the recipients and finalists. We encourage those who did not make it to continue their hard work.

Working together we can do more to improve the quality of our basic education.

Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy the rest of the evening.

I thank you.

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