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?