Monday, February 29, 2016

Address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 16th Annual National Teaching Awards ceremony, Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand

Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga,
Our guest of honour, Ms Louise Asmal,
MECs of Education,
Our sponsors and social partners,
All the finalists,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon.

It is truly heart-warming to be with you on this occasion, as we recognise and celebrate excellence in our teaching profession.
Today, we acknowledge with gratitude the very best among our national brigade of educators.
These are the teachers who exemplify a particular commitment to advancing the prestige of the teaching profession.

They know more than anyone that education is the best weapon at our nation’s disposal to eradicate poverty and its dehumanising effects.
They know that a good teacher is truly the most important and precious resource in front of a child.
We applaud the Department of Basic Education for dedicating the 16th National Teaching Awards to the late ANC President, Oliver Reginald Tambo.
It is OR Tambo who taught us that:

“A nation that does not take care of its youth has no future and does not deserve one.”
Speaking at the United Nations in 1976, Oliver Tambo said that:
“We will create a South Africa in which the doors of learning and of culture shall be open to all.
“We will have a South Africa in which the young of our country shall have the best that mankind has produced, in which they shall be taught to love the people of all races, to defend the equality of the people, to honour creative labour, to uphold the oneness of mankind and to hate untruths, immorality and avarice.”

Oliver Tambo was a scholar and a teacher.
He graduated with a BSc. degree in mathematics and physics from the University of Fort Hare, an outstanding institution that is celebrating its centenary this year.
He enrolled for a diploma in higher education which he could not complete because he was expelled for his political activism.

Despite this, Tambo went to his alma mater, St Peter's Secondary School in Rosettenville, where he taught physics and mathematics for five years.
Later, Tambo completed his post-graduate degree in law.
He went on to open the first black-owned legal practice in Johannesburg with his friend and comrade, Nelson Mandela.

We remain indebted to Comrade OR Tambo.
In dedicating the 16th National Teaching Awards to his memory, we vow that we dare not fail our country and our people.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The celebration of excellence in the teaching profession comes at a time when we have a lot to celebrate as a country and as a people.
Our Constitution turns 20 this year.
This Constitution, the cornerstone of our freedom, guarantees equality, the right to dignity and the right to life.

It also proclaims that everyone has the right to a basic education.
We are proud of our achievements.
Yet we know that there is still more that we need to do to build a better life for all our people.
This year we are commemorating the 40th anniversary of the June 16 uprising.
It was young people who took the apartheid regime by surprise when they organised thousands to march against the deplorable and catastrophic system of Bantu Education.
As we mark this anniversary, we salute the heroism of these young people.
Thanks to them, the South Africa we live in today is a fundamentally different place.
Our education system has changed fundamentally.

Since the dawn of democracy, government has prioritised education and worked to ensure that our schools receive the attention they deserve.
As a result, millions of our children are now receiving free quality education.
Our government remains committed to improving the quality of teaching and learning, as well as learner outcomes.

It is for this reason that the Minister of Finance in his Budget Speech allocated substantial resources to build education infrastructure and improve the overall performance of basic education.
We owe a debt of gratitude to all teachers who continue to provide our learners with education often in the face of adversity.

All teachers are winners. We salute all of you.
We are aware of the daily challenges and struggles that teachers face.
We have committed this government to do everything possible to improve the working conditions of teachers.

During the 2013 State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma announced a Commission of Inquiry into the remuneration and conditions of service in the public service and public entities.
Subsequently, the President directed that the commission must prioritise an investigation into the best remuneration policy for all our teachers.
We await the outcome of this inquiry.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We congratulate all the finalists this year.

Judging by the comments from the adjudicators, the standard of the National Teaching Awards was very high this year and they found it was no easy task to select winners.
You have made all of us proud.

Today we are celebrating teachers from Grade R to Grade 12, principals and also retired teachers.
This is an acknowledgement that education is a continuum and excellence can be found at any level of the schooling system.

Excellence in Grade R is critical because if we want to improve our impact, we have to start from the Foundation Phase.
If we neglect the Foundation Phase, it becomes a challenge to improve learner performance in Grade 12.

Today, we are celebrating teachers who have accepted that inclusive and equitable quality education for all is the most effective way to address poverty and its effects on children.
This resonates very well with the National Development Plan, which says that:
“Improved education…will lead to higher employment and earnings, while more rapid economic growth will broaden opportunities for all and generate the resources required to improve education.”
The teachers we are celebrating today were able to show that they have an understanding of educational challenges and have found innovative solutions to these challenges.
The National Teaching Awards provide an opportunity for all of us to recognise, learn and share best practices.

We would like therefore to thank teachers for their unrelenting efforts to better the lives of our learners.

We acknowledge your dedication and selfless service to the betterment of our country.
This event recognises not only teachers but also school managers.
School management and leadership is key to creating a supportive and conducive learning and teaching environment.

Your presence here today puts you in the prominent league of education ambassadors.
As ambassadors, you carry the responsibility to lead the way.
I want to congratulate all of you for the sterling job that you do ensuring that schools are places of development and excellence.

Finally, we acknowledge with gratitude our generous sponsors, including the European Union, Vodacom, South African Airlink and many others.
Let me end with these words from the Vision Statement of the National Development Plan:
We love reading.

All our citizens read, write, converse, and value ideas and thought.
We are fascinated by scientific invention and its use in the enhancement of our lives.
We live the joy of speaking many of our languages.
We know our history and that of other peoples.
We have clear values.

By 2030, we will have achieved all these things because we are determined, because we dare to dream, because we work together and, most importantly, because we have the finest teachers in the world.

I thank you.

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