Qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion for all

Vuk'uzenzele - - From Tyhoeuutnhiofnocbuusildings -

across South Africa its back to school for all forms of ed­u­ca­tion - pre-school, ba­sic and higher ed­u­ca­tion - all have now com­menced in earnest. Ed­u­ca­tion is the en­gine that drives our na­tional de­vel­op­ment and econ­omy. We must there­fore em­brace school­ing with the se­ri­ous­ness it de­serves.

Gov­ern­ment re­mains com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing univer­sal and eq­ui­table ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, re­gard­less of race and class and re­gard­less of where in the coun­try our peo­ple re­side.

While there were many chal­lenges in plac­ing learn­ers in schools, as ex­pe­ri­enced par­tic­u­larly in Gaut­eng, I am cer­tain that by now the chal­lenge has been con­sid­er­ably ad­dressed and that ev­ery child will even­tu­ally find a place and an op­por­tu­nity to de­velop, study and grow.

I also ap­peal for mu­tual tol­er­ance and har­mony and urge all of us to de­sist from the dis­crim­i­na­tory ten­den­cies that are in­her­ited from the past that still rear their ugly heads in some of our schools. Let us all re­spect this democ­racy that we all fought for and en­sure that each and ev­ery one en­joys its full ben­e­fits.

With re­gard to higher ed­u­ca­tion, all the regis­tra­tion and other bot­tle­necks notwith­stand­ing, let us ease all th­ese chal­lenges by ad­her­ing to the pre­scripts of the in­sti­tu­tions we have cho­sen, and com­plete the regis­tra­tion process without re­sort­ing to an­ar­chy and other un­ac­cept­able means. Our gov­ern­ment is pulling all stops to en­sure that ev­ery el­i­gi­ble per­son gets ac­cess to higher ed­u­ca­tion in this coun­try. The De­part­ment of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing has been vis­it­ing ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions to look at is­sues re­lat­ing to their pre­pared­ness for 2018 and in some in­stances to me­di­ate on some lin­ger­ing con­flicts with the pur­pose of un­block­ing log­jams.

We re­quest in­sti­tu­tions to em­brace our ob­jec­tive of pro­vid­ing ed­u­ca­tion to our peo­ple not only by open­ing the doors of learn­ing, but by cre­at­ing an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for stu­dents, par­tic­u­larly those from dis­ad­van­taged and poor back­grounds.

At the same time and in this year of the cel­e­bra­tion of our icon for­mer Pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela, we ex­pect the stu­dents to draw in­spi­ra­tion from our many fore­bears. We call on stu­dents to take the op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented to them for ed­u­ca­tion very se­ri­ously. We must also draw in­spi­ra­tion from Madiba's per­se­ver­ance and tenac­ity to ob­tain his ed­u­ca­tion de­spite his many years of in­car­cer­a­tion, and his ef­forts to open up op­por­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren to ob­tain ed­u­ca­tion even af­ter his term of of­fice. Tata Man­dela re­minded us that ed­u­ca­tion is the most pow­er­ful weapon which we can use to change the world, and African Na­tional Congress (ANC) held in June 2017 and the res­o­lu­tions of the 54th Con­fer­ence of the ANC, is to ac­cel­er­ate the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a new fi­nan­cial sup­port model to sup­port aca­dem­i­cally ca­pa­ble but poor learn­ers, so that they can also have an op­por­tu­nity for ed­u­ca­tion. We are ful­fill­ing this com­mit­ment by pro­vid­ing free higher ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing to the chil­dren from poor and work­ing class South African households with gross com­bined an­nual in­comes of up to R350 000.

We are also pro­vid­ing full bur­saries for tu­ition and study ma­te­ri­als to qual­i­fy­ing South African stu­dents at pub­lic Tech­ni­cal and Vo­ca­tional Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing (TVET) col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, as well as sub­sidised ac­com­mo­da­tion, or trans­port capped at spe­cific lev­els for those who qual­ify, start­ing with first time en­try stu­dents in 2018. This will be phased in over a pe­riod of five years. For re­turn­ing ex­ist­ing univer­sity NSFAS-funded stu­dents start­ing in 2018 and go­ing for­ward, their loans will be con­verted into full bur­saries to ease the bur­den of fu­ture re­pay­ments.

We believe that this proves we are mak­ing con­sid­er­able ad­vances in pro­vid­ing free ed­u­ca­tion for the poor. Gov­ern­ment will also con­sider var­i­ous as­pects of the Fees Com­mis­sion re­port to see how best we can im­prove the con­di­tions of the stu­dents at ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions and ease their learn­ing. We also en­cour­age con­tin­ual dia­logue be­tween all ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion stake­hold­ers to pre­vent un­nec­es­sary con­fronta­tions and stale­mates in the year, that end up af­fect­ing the in­sti­tu­tions' cal­en­dar, and even­tu­ally the very qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tional out­puts and out­comes that are pro­duced.

We are faced with the chal­lenge of bo­gus pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions which keep spring­ing up ev­ery­where, time and again. We urge our stu­dents to be vig­i­lant about th­ese pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions and to as­sist the De­part­ment of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing as well as other au­thor­i­ties in ver­i­fy­ing not only their ac­cred­i­ta­tion and regis­tra­tion sta­tus, but also the spe­cific pro­grammes they of­fer.

Lastly, as we move to­gether into the year, it is im­por­tant for par­ents to give all the nec­es­sary sup­port to their chil­dren, in­clud­ing the learn­ers in the ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions, and for the stu­dents them­selves to lead self-con­trolled lives that are free of al­co­hol and drug abuse, and make all ef­fort to pro­tect them­selves from life-chang­ing dis­eases such as HIV and AIDS.

Let us go back to school!

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