Speech By The Honourable Minister Of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, On The Occasion Her Support For The State Of The Nation Address (SONA), As Delivered By His Excellency, President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa

13 February 2024

Madam Speaker
His Excellency, the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa;
His Excellency, the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Paul Mashatile;
Honourable Members;
Ladies and Gentlemen, as well as the South African public at large

Honourable Speaker, it is with profound honour that I rise today to echo the sentiments of the inspiring State of the Nation Address delivered by His Excellency President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa last week.

It was certainly not his last. Uzobuya!

Reflecting on our democracy, now three decades strong and embodied by the generation of Tintswalo and her peers, it becomes clear that our advances in basic education form a cornerstone of this government’s legacy—a testament to the ANC-led Democratic Breakthrough of 1994.

As we explore the narrative of basic education in our nation, we must acknowledge the resilience and achievements of our schooling sector amidst various challenges.

Over the past 30 years, Government has implemented policies, programmes and interventions, which clearly demonstrated the Ruling Party’s unwavering commitment to expand and enhance Basic Education system through the implementation of social justice principles, which over the years, yielded remarkable outcomes.

The Ruling Party’s decision to make education its apex priority, reflects Government’s unwavering dedication to “opening the doors of learning to all”, as enshrined ble – the Freedom Charter;.

In the past 30, the ANC led government made significant strides in eradicating illiteracy. StatsSA, 2020-2021 General Household Survey (GHS), indicates that South Africa now has an adult literacy rate of 86.4%, which was achieved after opening the doors of learning for all and successfully implementing a Mass Literacy Campaign , which reached about four-point one (4.1) million adults all over the country over the 8-year period of the Khari-Kude mass literacy campaign.

As we celebrate the steady upward trends in our Basic Education system, the next phase, is to ramp up Early Childhood Development programmes, and focus on foundational skills of reading, writing and counting, as well as diversifying the curriculum for the skills and competencies of a changing world and continue to ensure a reduction of failure, repetition and drop-out rates after the basic education phase. ECD is with us now; the foundations of learning are going to be greatly strengthened from ECD, right through the Foundations and Intermediate Phase.

The decision of the Ruling Party to shift ECD from the DSD to the DBE, was driven by an understanding of ECD as a launching pad for a reinforced continuum of learning and development, from early years to early Grades, so that we can build solid foundations for learning. This fact cannot be overemphasised. It is a critical stage for early identification of developmental delays to enable us to provide early integrated support our children

In addition to the policies, programmes and laws in place, after the function shift, in 2021, the DBE embarked on a number of studies,viz, national ECD Census to understand the magnitude of the ECD function shift. This study amongst others estimated enrolment rates of 34% amongst children aged 3 to 5 years.

We also conducted the Thrive by Five Study to understand what proportion of children in ECD programmes are developmentally on track. Thrive by Five data, tell us that too many children are not on track in key developmental areas This means that we must focus relentlessly on an integrated ECD programme. This is the main reason for His Excellency, President Ramaphosa said in the 2024 SONA that “in the next five years we will prioritise expanding access to ECD, improving quality and integrating services”.

We also conducted a Public Expenditure and Institutional Review to understand the funding gaps in increasing access and improving the quality of ECD services. Again we also conducted a Deep Dive Study into the implementation of the National Curriculum Framework to inform the improvement support required by ECD programmes to improve the quality of stimulation and care provided.

These studies and different other studies inform our practical actions and our new Strategy for ECD, which we will publish shortly. As indicated by President Ramaphosa, the President himself will be the convener of the special Inter-Ministerial Committee for ECD, to ensure that all the relevant government departments come together to drive our ambitious integrated ECD programme.

Speaker, and Honourable Members, allow me to lift some of the critical areas in the basic education system, to further demonstrate the work we have done, and the work we believe will reinforce the work even further.

2023 National Senior Certificate (NSC) Exam Results

In the last few years, as DBE we adopted a theme of – “A system on the rise”; given the improvement trajectory we have observed over the past few years in 2023, this theme was adjusted to read thus – “Growing Together, A Sector on the rise”. The Matric Class of 2023 has given credence to this theme by demonstrating the cohesive improvement in the system across all Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) and education Districts

As we speak, None of our provinces performed lower than 75%; More heartening and encouraging, is the narrowing of the gap in the percentage pass rates attained by provinces,.

What the exam results of the Class of 2023 demonstrate therefore, is that the Basic Education system in its totality, is a system on the rise

Speaker, Honourable Members and the general public, we wish to restate the fact that the overall pass rate of the Class of 2023 was 82.9 . We must also report that the number of candidates who attained the NSC, has almost doubled since 1995, from about two hundred and eighty-four thousand (283 742) in 1995; to about five hundred and seventy-three thousand (572 983) in 2023. The number and percentage of passes with distinctions attained by the Class of 2023, is the highest in the entire history of the NSC exams.

More poignantly, we must report that the “pro-poor” policies of Government are showing “good fruit” –The difference in performance between the fee-paying schools and the “no-fee” schools, has narrowed The “no fee” schools have been consistently producing high proportions of Bachelor passes since 2015 – President Ramaphosa calls this “the silent revolution.

Finally, about four hundred and forty-two thousand (441 871) social grant recipients ( Tintswalo and her peers) passed; with more than two hundred and two thousand (202 156) obtaining Bachelor passes; and one hundred and sixty thousand 160 326) passing with distinctions. Equally important, one hundred and thirty-seven (137), young people in correctional facilities, who wrote the exams as full-time candidates, passed; with ninety (90) obtaining Bachelor passes. Surely, this account clearly shows that the “pro-poor” policies and the restorative justice programme of Government are indeed producing “good fruit”!

Three-Stream Curriculum Model

Another Remarkable progress has been made in the introduction and implementation of the Three-Stream Curriculum Model in the past few years. This project with its over-arching objective of preparing young South Africans for employability, jointly run by DBE, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), and the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL).

This project has been an anchor, around the Three-Stream Curriculum Model with milestones, such as the finalisation of thirty-nine (39) occupational and vocational subjects for implementation in seventy-four (74) Schools of Skill; piloting in one hundred and fifty (150) ordinary public schools, and focus schools; piloting of the General Education Certificate (GEC), which is entering its third year in 2024

Notably, the implementation of the Three-Stream Curriculum Model engenders innovations in assessment approaches in the DBE through the piloting of the GEC with three modalities of assessment being curriculum assessment; assessment of competencies; and assessment of inclinations, which seek to establish learners’ possible future careers, which will be utilised to guide learners into each of the three streams that are appropriately aligned to their individual interests, aptitudes and abilities for them to thrive.

Language acquisition and the link to performances in international assessment studies

Speaker, Honourable Members, research informs us that language acquisition begins well before a child is born. This phenomenon, which is a natural occurrence, supports the claim that language is hardwired in the human brain. Therefore, the system will leverage on this innate gift of language perception, as it is essential for language acquisition after birth. We are using this understanding as a basis for Mother Tongue-based Bilingual Education (MT-BBE).

We are convinced that the system must transform to address the underlying reason for the underperformance of African language learners in international assessment tests, such as the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS

By the end of February 2024, we will be announcing the full rollout of Mother Tongue-Based Bilingual Education (MT-BBE) in our schools. This will break, not just 30 years of domination of learning and teaching through English and Afrikaans, but hundreds of years of exclusive advantage enjoyed by English and Afrikaans learners in schooling.

Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI)

Speaker and Honourable Members, who can forget the devastation that COVID-19 left in the world over. South Africa was not spared either. To create job opportunities, President Ramaphosa introduced a stimulus package, through which young people, with appropriate qualifications and skills, were offered job opportunities in public ordinary and special schools.

Through the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI), young people, aged 18-34 years, were offered fixed-term job opportunities, and were placed in public ordinary and special schools to gain meaningful work experiences.

The Sector was allocated R25.6 billion over a four (4) year period for the creation of more than 1.1 million job opportunities annually for young people.

One hundred and eighty-seven thousand (187 000) young people were provided with generic training, so that they could cope with the work in schools. About twenty-four thousand (24 000) young people were offered accredited training programmes from the SETAs, with a variety of skills,

The new infrastructure delivery modality

I wish to remind the Honourable Members that in 2011, to support provinces, the DBE launched the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI-2011). ASIDI-2011, which has been successfully implemented,

Replaced 330 mud schools

Provided 1 298) water infrastructure to schools that previously did not have water supply; Provided 1 087 appropriate sanitation at schools and electrified 373

Again In 2018, to support and assist different provincial departments, the DBE launched the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE-2018) initiative.

To date through more than 3 009 schools have been provided with appropriate sanitation facilities,

Again another 1 105 schools have been provided with water infrastructure 5 195 schools have been electrified

Sanitation at 10 445 schools have been upgraded and repaired 759 new and replacement schools have been completed and about 8 598 maintenance projects completed.

Madam Speaker, Honourable Members, , we must continue to express our deepest and heartfelt sympathy for the lives lost along the way. One life lost, is indeed one life too many. Hence, we are looking at continuing to accelerate, safe, and more effective infrastructure delivery modalities. We are the first to concede that while we have made strides in the delivery of infrastructure to our schools thus far, significant work still needs to be done to address persistent school infrastructure backlogs.

In May 2023, the Basic Education Sector Strategy for Infrastructure Delivery, based on ten principles, was approved by the Council of Education Ministers (CEM). The strategy comprises the ten (10) points. We will share with this House and the public the details of this strategy, when our consultations with National Treasury, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, Infrastructure South Africa, and our critical partners have been completed.

Modernisation of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP)

Honourable Members, the National School Nutrition Programme is a key poverty alleviation programme of Government, to address hunger and malnutrition in children of school-going age. Currently, the NSNP reaches almost ten (10) million learners every school day with a nutritious lunch meal. Three (3) provinces, namely Gauteng, Free State and Western Cape, have added a breakfast meal, and we expect the other six provinces to introduce breakfast in all primary schools from the start of the 2024 financial year.

Despite the programs R10 bollion budget, it is currently under pressure especially due to ongoing food price hikes thus making difficult in some instances to extend the daily meal to more learners, as well as to improve the quality of food provided by the programme.

In addition, we are mindful of the need to incrementally extend nutrition support to the ECD sector and thus the need to look at how the program can be strengthened further to obtain better economies of scale, which we expect will lead to significant savings, which can then be ploughed back into the improvement and expansion of the programme.

the new model of the NSNP, will be cautiously phased-in during the 2024 academic year.

Speaker, we , as the ANC fully support the 2024 State of the Nation Address, as aptly presented by President Ramaphosa.

I thank you!!