Speech by the Minister of Higher Education and Training, DrBlade Nzimande, MP during the National Assembly debate on the State of the Nation Address

20 February 2013

Speaker/Deputy Speaker
Honourable Members

Under the leadership of President Jacob Zuma, both as President of our Republic and that of the ANC, and building upon the achievements of the ANC since 1994, education has been declared and made an apex priority for our country since 2009. If Verwoerd and his criminal apartheid regime of 1948 had said the black child must not study mathematics and no black worker must become a skilled artisan, President Zuma has emphatically said the black child must indeed study and be competent in Mathematics and that we must increase the production of new artisans, including black artisans!

President Zuma has not only said these things, but has led from the front through leading concrete interventions in education as part of inverting and destroying the Verwoedian legacy. In 2009 President Zuma decided to split the former department of education into two. This was indeed a stroke of genius that is beginning to bear fruit.

The Department of Higher Education and Training has developed a vision of post-school education and training and has already made some significant practical advances that is beginning to improve opportunities for our youth and adults in acquiring further education and skills. Under the leadership of President Zuma, FET College enrolments have grown substantially over the last few years - from about 350 000 in 2010 to over 650 000 in 2012, almost doubling. This has been made possible through a variety of strategies including a concerted effort to raise popular consciousness around the possibilities provided by an FET education, through the introduction of fee-free education for poor students in FET Colleges and the expansion of shorter skills courses offered in FET Colleges with the assistance of the SETAs.

Parenthetically, the leader of the IFP stated yesterday that the President only wanted to provide jobs for 11 000 young people. This is a serious misunderstanding, if not deliberate distortion of what the President said. What the President said, was to appeal for placements for the 11 000 recent FET graduates who are still awaiting placements. As important as this is, it does not constitute the entirety of government job creation efforts for the youth.

A turnaround strategy to improve the quality of FET College teaching and management has been developed. This includes short term interventions to stabilise some of the weaker colleges, the appointment of qualified CAs as chief financial officers in 43 of the 50 FET Colleges, the development of specialised qualifications for college lecturers, special interventions to strengthen student support, and so on. A review of the curriculum of the National Certificate (Vocational), i.e. NCV, is being undertaken to tackle some of the challenges associated with the current curriculum including R 2.5 billion for the current MTEF period to upgrade their infrastructure, announced by the President last year.

Under the leadership of President Zuma, NSFAS funding for loans and bursaries to students in universities and colleges have expanded massively from R2.375 billion in 2008 to well over R6 billion this year. FET College students coming from poor backgrounds and following occupational programmes are now completely exempted from paying fees. This is indeed the first ever in our country, under the leadership of President Zuma! This has meant that bursary funds for FET College students coming from poor families have increased from R310 million in 2009 to R1.75 billion in 2012 and to reach R2 billion in 2013. Such a massive increase, largely to the benefit of poor black students, has never ever happened in our country before. It is happening for the first time under President Zuma.

Over the next 3 years, we have set aside R1.7 billion for building new university student accommodation and universities are contributing an additional R0.6 billion. Of the R2.3 billion total, R1.4 billion will be spent on student accommodation at historically disadvantaged institutions where the need is greatest. This will provide 9 000 new beds in our universities. Overall for university infrastructure, the Department is spending R6 billion over this 3-year MTEF period, with an additional R2 billion in co-funding from the universities` own coffers, with an estimated 37 000 direct jobs being created.

The government is now committed to establishing three new universities which will help to expand our capacity and access to higher education. These include the two new universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape whose first students will be admitted next year. These will be the first universities of a democratic South Africa, and R2,1 bn has been set aside for such infrastructure; and about 11 242 direct jobs will be created during the construction phase. In addition we are establishing a new comprehensive university of health sciences to be established on the Medunsa campus which is being demerged from the University of Limpopo. I must emphasise that this will be more than just a demerger. The new university will be a much expanded institution and will include not only the training of medical doctors, but also other health professionals such as dentists, veterinarians, nurses, physiotherapists, medical technologists, radiographers, and so on.

As we are all aware, government is seriously committed to accelerating the delivery of infrastructure to spearhead our country`s growth. Each of the Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) are sites for skills development and every SIP will have a comprehensive skills development plan.

I want to emphasise that, whatever the challenges we may face, we have made substantial progress over the last decade and a half in relation to schooling, with even more significant advances under President Zuma. The 2011 census shows that our educational levels have increased significantly; the proportion of South Africans with a Grade 12 education or higher has risen from 28.8% in 2001 to 40.7% in 2011, an increase of 41.3%. School participation rates of 7 to 15 year olds in 2011 was 98.8%.

One of our most notable achievements has been the very significant expansion of Grade R enrolments, meaning that most children start with their formal education a year younger than was previously the case. The proportion of five year olds in school increased from 45.6% in 2001 and to 81.2% in 2011. This, together with our efforts to improve the quality of teaching has begun to show up in the results of the Annual National Assessments (the ANAs). In Grade 3, the national average performance in Literacy was 52% in 2012, as compared to 35% in 2011, registering an improvement of 17%. In Grade 3 Numeracy, our learners performed at an average of 41% as compared to 28% in 2011. Our Grade 6 Mathematics results have been disappointing with an average performance of 27% as compared to 30% in 2011. Every effort will now be made to reverse this. Our Grade 6 results for Language, however, showed a substantial improvement.[1]

The focus on the ANAs is the result of our increasing realisation that the Grade 12 pass rate is just one of many indicators of the health of the schooling system. Nonetheless, it is clear from the steady improvement in results in the National Senior Certificate that the education system has stabilised and is improving. A key indicator of better Grade 12 results is the number of learners qualifying for university studies at the Bachelors level. The 2012 figure of 136 047 is almost exactly double the level it was in 2000. The results of the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), released late last year provide the first indication ever from an internationally standardised testing system that substantial quality improvements are occurring in the South African schooling system.

Other significant achievements include the Department of Basic Education`s undertaking to provide over 50 million workbooks annually to learners. The School Nutrition programme has now increased significantly to cover 8.8 million learners in about 21 000 primary and secondary schools. In December 2012, the National School Build Programme under the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee was launched to address national backlogs in classrooms, libraries, computer laboratories, media centres and administration buildings while embracing long-term infrastructure planning and budgeting. As the President said, by the end of this financial year alone we would have built 98 schools, over 40 of them in the Eastern Cape. This shows that government is being programmatic in tackling mud schools and other inappropriately build school structures, contrary to the ridiculous claims by the DA.

In the light of all this, we call upon our youth and parents to make full use of these opportunities. We call upon our communities to get closer to our schools, colleges and universities, to make sure that they are functioning. We call upon the trade union movement to mobilise its members to ensure that education does indeed become an apex priority in practice.

So when the opposition, the DA and its other lackeys, the DA-Lite, their own version and concoction of `Coke Lite`, say they have lost confidence in President Zuma, they are expressing their unhappiness about the advances made by the ANC under the leadership of President Zuma, to change the educational opportunities for the majority of our people for the better. This is President Zuma`s so-called `failure`, according to them. All these achievements mean very little to the DA and its constituency, because it is representing the rich and other elites. Kubantu bakwaDambuza ababengazi ukuthi ugesi uyangena endlini yodaka, namhlanje bayaqhaklaza ngogesi owafika noKhongolose!

To the leader of the IFP we want to say, we have made all these advances because our people fought and defeated the apartheid regime, including by taking up arms. We went to the TRC because we had nothing to hide, and ours was a legitimate struggle against an illegitimate regime. Faced with the same challenge we would do the same.

It must also be said that it is improper and extremely opportunistic for the IFP to say they did not appear before the TRC and its Amnesty Committee, but yet come and raise matters that should have been raised through those processes before this House. This is abuse of parliamentary privilege. Do not raise these matters here as this parliament or the STATE of the Nation Debate, does not have the capacity to verify the truthfulness or otherwise of the IFP`s claims about its role during the apartheid era. Ngoba aniyanga kwi Khomishane yamaQiniso, kungcono nithule nize nife ngezinto okwakufanele niyozisho ngaphambi kwayo.

I want to say that our record of the struggle against the apartheid regime and its crimes will not be measured by whether we appeared or did not appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its Amnesty Committee. As a student of historical materialism for the past 33 years I now know that our struggle against, or collaboration, with the apartheid regime, will be told by HISTORY! HISTORY has got its own way of telling the truth, no matter how long it takes, about what roles our respective organisations played in the struggle against apartheid. HISTORY never forgets. HISTORY also tends to be very stubborn with its facts, and these facts will always in the end come out, no matter how long it may take. Ngamanye amazwi umlando uyayixoxa indaba yawo uma isikhathi sesifikile. Noma imnandi noma yimbi, noma ngabe ibuhlungu kangakanani umlando uyilanda indaba injengoba injalo.

Instead history will judge President Zuma as a leader who did what he said in making education an apex priority! The ANC and our Alliance as a whole have full confidence in you as the President.

Thank you Speaker.

[1] In 2012, the national average performance was 43% for Home Language (HL) and 36% for First Additional Language (FAL) as compared to 28% in 2011 (when language tests were not demarcated into HL and FAL). This is an improvement of 15% (in HL), providing confidence that we will achieve the 60% target for 2014.