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CityPress - - Voices - Voices@city­press.co.za

eo­ple are never sat­is­fied. If they have a lit­tle, they want more. If they have a lot, they still want more. Once they have more, they wish they could be happy with lit­tle, but are in­ca­pable of mak­ing the slight­est ef­fort in that di­rec­tion,” wrote Brazil­ian lyri­cist and nov­el­ist Paulo Coelho.

Coelho is cor­rect. De­spite the fact that ed­u­ca­tion has been the big­gest ben­e­fi­ciary of the Gaut­eng budget – R40.8 bil­lion of R108 bil­lion fi­nan­cial spend – be­cause of the role it plays in so­ci­ety and how it helps pro­duce a more skilled work­force go­ing for­ward into the fu­ture, there are still some doubters.

The budget is not only about money. It’s also about chang­ing the way we work here in Gaut­eng. What does this mean in prac­ti­cal terms? It means we can never jeop­ar­dise the achieve­ment of the goal of uni­ver­sal pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion, which may re­sult in de­nial of the hu­man right to ed­u­ca­tion.

It means we have a cra­dle-to-ca­reer agenda, one that starts at birth and fol­lows chil­dren ev­ery step of the way with the ul­ti­mate goal that they grad­u­ate with a univer­sity de­gree.

It’s a pity that, de­spite progress we are mak­ing in ed­u­cat­ing the na­tion, some peo­ple, in­clud­ing Khume Ra­mulifho (“It’s all spin with MEC Le­sufi”, City Press, July 2) be­lieve that “de­spite the state’s con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tion to pro­vide and fund ed­u­ca­tion for the poor, the path from Grade 1 to ma­tric is fast be­com­ing a road less trav­elled.”

My an­swer to this empty rhetoric is sim­ple: We be­lieve in an ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem that fac­tors in learner growth, progress in clos­ing achieve­ment gaps, pro­fi­ciency to­wards ter­tiary and ca­reer-ready stan­dards, high school grad­u­a­tion and univer­sity en­rol­ment rates.

As we travel the prov­ince lis­ten­ing to par­ents, ad­min­is­tra­tors, teach­ers and other stake­hold­ers, we are find­ing ways to lever­age dra­matic change, ac­cel­er­at­ing progress for decades to come.

We are re­cruit­ing and de­vel­op­ing great teach­ers. Noth­ing is more im­por­tant than a great teacher in ev­ery class­room and a great prin­ci­pal in ev­ery school. That is why we are in­vest­ing in the best prepa­ra­tion pro­grammes at the Mathew Goniwe School of Lead­er­ship and Gov­er­nance.

We know that, even in the midst of a re­ces­sion, em­ploy­ers say they can’t find qual­i­fied can­di­dates for va­cant jobs. Those jobs are in fields like health­care, com­puter science, ac­count­ing, and en­gi­neer­ing.

In Gaut­eng, we know that, un­less we show the courage and the will to make tough choices on be­half of our chil­dren, these in­vest­ments will not change lives. Un­less we demon­strate the ca­pac­ity to bring to­gether all the adults in our schools – teach­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors, unions and par­ents – and over­come the di­vi­sions and dis­agree­ments that im­pede progress, these in­vest­ments will not change lives.

In­deed, busi­ness can col­lab­o­rate in co­op­er­a­tive ed­u­ca­tion, work ar­range­ments and in­tern­ships, pro­vid­ing students with work-based learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

For ex­am­ple, the prov­ince and pri­vate sec­tor part­ners are in­volved in Tshepo One Mil­lion, a pro­gramme to pro­vide unem­ployed youth op­por­tu­ni­ties through skills train­ing, job place­ment and en­trepreneur­ship de­vel­op­ment. This part­ner­ship will pro­vide 1 mil­lion young peo­ple with train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in dig­i­tal skills; in­tern­ships, learn­er­ships, en­ter­prise and sup­plier de­vel­op­ment and jobs; skills and op­por­tu­ni­ties in in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy; value chain, es­pe­cially data an­a­lyt­ics; town­ship panel beat­ing shops serv­ing driv­able re­pairs; pro­vid­ing links to town­ship mar­ket­place plat­forms; as­set fi­nance as sup­port to town­ship mar­ket­place plat­forms; on­line train­ing pro­grammes; and writ­ing skills and com­puter-aided re­search.

Here is proof that we are liv­ing to our con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tion of ed­u­cat­ing our way to a bet­ter econ­omy and na­tion:

• The num­ber of learn­ers in pub­lic ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion has al­most dou­bled – from 1.3 mil­lion learn­ers in 1994 to al­most 2.4 mil­lion this year.

• Ac­cess to early child­hood de­vel­op­ment is now at 95%, fast ap­proach­ing uni­ver­sal lev­els.

• The pri­mary school at­ten­dance rate is at 95% and se­condary school at­ten­dance rate is at 92%.

• We con­tinue to be among the top three best-per­form­ing prov­inces in the Grade 12 ex­am­i­na­tions, con­tribut­ing 23% of all bach­e­lor passes and 22% of dis­tinc­tions in the coun­try.

• We have also made progress by steadily and em­phat­i­cally im­prov­ing ma­tric re­sults. The per­for­mance of town­ship schools has im­proved quite dra­mat­i­cally over this pe­riod.

• Gov­ern­ment has in­vested R800 mil­lion in bur­saries, learn­er­ships and in­tern­ships in or­der to equip young peo­ple with the ne­c­es­sary skills and work ex­pe­ri­ence.

• We have pro­gres­sively worked to­wards elim­i­nat­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate school struc­tures, re­plac­ing them with state-of-theart build­ings, es­pe­cially in his­tor­i­cally ne­glected ar­eas.

• As part of mod­ernising pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and rolling out elearn­ing sys­tems, 1 861 Grade 12 class­rooms had been con­verted to smart class­rooms. The con­ver­sion of 1 765 Grade 11 class­rooms was also com­pleted in the last fi­nan­cial year.

• Seven­teen new schools for learn­ers who have a phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity, who are deaf and who are blind, have been built.

• We have also pro­vided dig­ni­fied sanitation, wa­ter and elec­tric­ity to hun­dreds more schools in com­pli­ance with the Na­tional Norms and Stan­dards for school In­fras­truc­ture. • We are re­plac­ing 29 as­bestos schools. • To fight hunger and poverty, the school nu­tri­tion pro­gramme now reaches over 1.4 mil­lion learn­ers ev­ery school day.

• We have also ex­panded ac­cess to free ed­u­ca­tion for chil­dren from poor house­holds. More than 1.2 mil­lion at­tend no-fee schools, which is at least 65% of our schools. No child is be­ing de­nied ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion be­cause their par­ents are poor or de­ceased. • Over 100 000 learn­ers have ac­cess to scholar trans­port. We are im­prov­ing at ev­ery stage of the ed­u­ca­tion con­tin­uum – in early learn­ing, in pri­mary and high school. Our na­tion’s eco­nomic se­cu­rity de­pends on it.

Le­sufi is Gaut­eng MEC for ed­u­ca­tion

TALK TO US Do you be­lieve gov­ern­ment is do­ing all it can to ad­vance ed­u­ca­tion?

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