Speech by the Hon Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Matsie Motshekga MP, in support of the State Of the Nation Address in a joint sitting of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

Monday, 19 February 2017

Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Baleka Mbete,
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Ms Thandi Modise,
His Excellency, the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, and Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Premiers and Speakers of Provincial Legislatures,
Chairperson of SALGA, and all Executive Mayors present,
The Heads of Chapter 9 Institutions,
Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Honourable Members from the National Assembly and the NCOP,
Invited Guests and, Fellow South Africans,

Madam Speaker, Madam Chairperson, His Excellency the President, and Honourable Members, I wish to reflect on the following issues, which arise from the SONA namely, the roles of basic education as well as science and technology sectors in equipping learners for the world of work, positions in areas of scarce skills; and the Fourth Industrial Revolution; and fee-free higher education and training for the poor students; and subsidised higher education and training for South African students from working class families and the middle strata.


I wish to report that as the Department of Basic Education, we have already begun to celebrate these centenarians. When we released the 2017 National Senior Certificate examinations results, we branded that event around our Father of the South African democratic nation, utata uMadiba. Only last Saturday, we hosted the 18th National Teaching Awards, at which my Cabinet colleague, the Honourable Minister in the Presidency, responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Comrade Jeff Radebe, read the President's Speech.

Who can forget what the former President of the United States of America, President Barack Obama said, when he eulogised Madiba at Madiba's memorial service, that President Mandela was, "a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process, moved billions around the world." President Obama summed up Madiba's contribution to humanity when he declared that he was, "the last great liberator of the 20th century". Madiba was indeed a brave, kind-spirited, courageous, and magnanimous leader and father. He knew that public power was held in trust for the benefit of the people, not for personal gain. All in all, Madiba was an exemplar of probity, benevolence, selflessness and courage in the true sense. These are the core values that must underlie the renewal of our nation.

Who can forget the powerful words of our Statesman, President Madiba, when he said, "Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world". How true Mr President, if we are to revatalise and renew, education as one of the most important weapons so that all of us, as a nation, we must agree that basic education is at the heart of building such a South African nation. In this regard, basic education is pivotal in the reconstruction of a cohesive society.

Madam Speaker, Madam Chairperson, His Excellency the President, and Honourable Members, I must also report that we co-branded the 18th National Teaching Awards in recognition of umama Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu as well. We also want to acknowledge umama Sisulu's principled, selfless and courageous life, her great work and sacrifices, and her impeccable leadership. Umama Sisulu was a woman and a mother, whose strength and steadfastness, through her lifetime of political struggle, cannot be forgotten.

We therefore, support the President's call that, as a South African nation, we must continue to draw lessons and inspiration from the lives of President Mandela and umama Sisulu, as we confront the challenges of the present and the future. We shall continue to brand all the events organised by, and those coordinated with the Department of Basic Education to celebrate the lives, lessons and ethical leadership of President Mandela and umama Sisulu in our quest to unite, rebuild and renew our country. We must agree as a nation, that basic education is at the heart of building such a South African nation. In this regard, basic education is pivotal in the reconstruction of a cohesive society.


Madam Speaker, Madam Chairperson, His Excellency the President, and Honourable Members, the SONA is saturated with the urgent need to deal with youth unemployment. Hence, I chose to reflect on the role of basic education in Government's quest to equip learners for the world of work, and for positions in areas of scarce skills. Let me first remind this august Joint Sitting that in the basic education as well as in the science and technology sectors, enormous work has been done on the role of these sectors to equip young people for the world of work, for positions of scarce skills, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Our own National Development Plan, in its vision 2030, enjoins us, among others, to ensure that the different parts of the education system, should work together, allowing learners to take different pathways that offer high quality learning opportunities. One of the main targets set, is that the Department of Higher Education and Training should produce 30 000 graduates in Artisanship annually by 2030.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) sees itself as having a significant contribution in the pursuit of the visions set out in SDG4 and the NDP. It is in light of this role that the Department of Basic Education has introduced the Three Stream Curriculum Model, to provide learners with opportunities to choose career pathways that are in keeping with their individual interests, aptitudes and abilities.

The Three-Stream Curriculum Model

Madam Speaker and Madam Chairperson considering the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the skills needed by young people for the labour market, and the skills required for a changing world, our comprehensive response was the introduction of the Three Stream Curriculum Model. Over a number of years, our curriculum offerings, focused on the "academic stream". By introducing the Three Stream Curriculum Model, we were also responding to the injunction of the NDP that by 2030, we have to produce 450 000 learners with a Bachelor-level passes, particularly with mathematics and science.

The new model features three streams of education, namely, academic, vocational and occupational streams, which are explained as the academic pathway is a largely theoretical programme, which mainly prepares learners for higher education studies at the end of year 12 of schooling; the vocational pathway is a programme made up of subjects, with at least a 50% practical component, mainly for artisanship and professions; and the occupational pathway is a programme made up of subjects consisting of at least a 75% practical component, and mainly prepares learners for the world of work.

(a) in the Senior Phase (Grades 7 to 9), learners are offered the academic subjects, as well as technical-vocational subjects. At the end of Grade 9, there will be a General Certificate Education (GCE) qualification on successfully passing this Grade; and allowing for specialisation in technical-vocational programmes. This will also serve as an exit point for those learners who wish to pursue further studies at post-school institutions, such as TVET Colleges; and

(b) from Grade 10, learners will be able to either choose the academic pathway, leading to a National Senior Certificate, and articulates mainly to tertiary education; or the vocational pathway, offered in technical high schools leading to an National Senior Certificate, and articulates mainly to apprenticeship to become an artisan; or the occupational pathway, offered by vocational high schools, leading to an NCV 1, 2 or 3 qualification, and articulates mainly to the world of work and learnerships.

It is important to note that the schools that offer a purely academic curriculum and wish to offer NCV curriculum programmes, may apply to their respective provincial education departments for permission to do so.

Madam Speaker, Madam Chairperson, His Excellency the President and Honourable Members, the Three Stream Curriculum Model is about radical change to the education and training landscape in our country, which inter alia, strengthens the focus of Focus Schools, such as Aviation; and schools specialising in Information Technology and Technology. One of the major implications brought about by this fundamental change to the education and training system, is that the TVET colleges may now operate at NQF Levels 5 and 6, which are offered at the post-schooling phase. This will reduce the pressure on universities, and can provide an accredited exit qualification from TVET colleges.

Other implications for the introduction of the Three Stream Curriculum Model for the basic education sector

In fact, our basic education system will equip learners with unprecedented skill-sets, competencies, and personality traits, emphasising soft skills, providing a transition between the school and the world of work, creating technology-enabled platforms, and new forms of collaboration to keep pace with innovations and a combination of technologies.

Partnerships for Technical and Vocational Education and Training

Madam Speaker, Madam Chairperson, His Excellency the President and Honourable Members, we are progressively forging partnerships with Quality Councils, corporates, and industries to strengthen and support the implementation of Technical and Vocational education and training on an ongoing basis. We are encouraged by the partnerships we have already forged at national level; and we are encouraging provincial education departments to do likewise, and forge similar partnerships up to the school level.

For instance, the Department of Basic Education, the MerSETA, and the nine provincial education departments have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, focussing on scarce skills development in ten technical schools promoting artisanship. There are two schools in the Northern Cape, and one from each of the remaining provinces, with 210 learners.

Going forward, DBE is working on extending the partnerships to include the strengthening of the apprenticeship programme through contributions from business and industry, to also include workplace learning experiences; or to create simulations of the workplace. This extension of the partnerships should also address the proposed professionalisation of artisans and technicians, who are currently employed in schools offering the technical and vocational education and training programmes. Cooperating with the teacher training institutions, we are working on improving their pedagogy and classroom practices, because these are skilled technical people, who are not trained to be classroom teachers.

Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is that in which disruptive digital technologies and trends are changing the way we live and work, whilst they bring with them a lot of anxiety but lots of excitement too. Globally, countries are being challenged to respond to the opportunities and risks presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Advanced Technologies, such as automation, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and autonomous vehicles will demand non-routine, interpersonal skills and analytical skills, social skills, such as persuasion, emotional and social intelligence and will demand creativity, agility, adaptability. Furthermore, creative and critical thinking, communication, media literacy, and ethics, will be demanded.

On the science and technology in education front, Government has already finalised detailed plans with key stakeholders, using the Operation Phakisa methodology, to enable the successful use of ICTs in education. This includes the provision of core connectivity to schools, the development of learner materials, the more effective use of ICTs in the administration and evidence-based improvement of the education system, and the preparation of teachers for an education system more strongly underpinned by ICTs.

With respect to technological capability, Government has been investing in building core capability in areas crucial for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We have managed to develop significant capabilities in areas ranging from data science, storage and processing, to additive manufacturing, nanotechnology and robotics; and we are starting to build capability in areas, such as block-chain technology. In all of these areas, South Africa benefits from mutually beneficial and active partnerships with researchers and technologists from other parts of the world.

We have attracted substantial investments from multinational companies for research and development in areas key to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We are currently investigating ways of consolidating and strengthening current public investments to allow South Africa to use these capabilities in industry, and to support the improvement of Government functions and services, especially in education, health and urban development.

Skills for a changing world

The basic education sector is positioning itself to address the argument that by 2030, over 800 million young people across the globe, will not have basic skills needed to keep up in knowledge-based technology-driven economy. The basic education sector also noted that by 2030, 2 billion (half of all current jobs) will disappear due to automation. The skills, amongst others, of the changing world will focus more on information management skills; communication; problem solving; critical thinking; creativity; innovation; autonomy; collaboration and teamwork; media literacy; ICT literacy; flexibility and adaptability; initiative & self-direction; social and cross-cultural; productivity and accountability; leadership and responsibility; as well as lifelong learning.

The Department is therefore preparing learners for the Fourth Industrial Revolution through a three-pronged approach, which consists of the revisions to school curriculum design, including Computer Application Technology, Information Technology, and the Three-Stream Curriculum Model; the provision of ICT resources to schools, including connectivity and devices through Operation Phakisa; and the integration of technology in teaching and learning (e-Learning) through Operation Phakisa.

Since the launch of Operation Phakisa, we have made some great strides, including much better collaboration and harmonisation, horizontally and vertically, through the basic education sector, and across government. The details on sector alignment and collaboration with strategic partners; the digitisation of textbooks and workbooks; the provisioning of ICT devices; teacher and professional development using ICTs; the progress made in the drafting of an ICT strategy to ensure cross-sectoral alignment, can all be found from the Department of Basic Education.

Critical for us, is the integration of ICTs into all the levels of the education and training system in order to improve the quality of teaching and learning, by digitally transforming the basic education sector. All stakeholders are aligning and delivering a consistent solution to all schools, to ensure that no school is left behind, because of its geopolitical location. We want a learner in Lusikisiki to have the same access to ICTs as a learner in Johannesburg. For without this, such learners would be unable to cope with the demands of the 21st century and Fourth industrial Revolution.

We therefore agree with President Ramaphosa when he opined that our prosperity as a nation is dependent on our ability to take full advantage of the rapid technological change. The envisaged Digital Industrial Revolution Commission will accelerate our quest to implement Operation Phakisa.


Building scientific literacy

The NDP demands a much higher scientific literacy in South Africa than is currently the case. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) supports the Annual Science Festival in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape; the annual National Science Week, which has activities in all nine provinces; and several Science and Mathematics Olympiads. In addition, the Department of Science and Technology supports over 30 community-based science centres that promote knowledge of science in around the country. Many of these centres, are supported jointly by the Departments of Science and Technology, as well as Basic Education. Through its efforts, annually the Department of Science and Technology provides more than 2 million people, including young people, an opportunity to learn about science and technology.

Innovation for health and job creation

Supporting socio-economic development

The science and technology system, continues to support the social and economic development objectives of government. Through initiatives, such the Technology Stations Programme, the Technology Localisation Programme, the establishment of industrial development platforms, and partnerships with the private sector, we are supporting the development of small and medium enterprises, as well as enhancing the competitiveness of sectors of the economy that contribute to growth and jobs. Similar successes are evident with respect to social development, with science and technology creating new generation water and sanitation systems, supporting health care, providing renewable energy technologies, and alternative building technologies, As well as technologies and systems that support efforts by Government to enhance its planning and monitoring functions.


Madam Speaker, Madam Chairperson, and Honourable Members, President Ramaphosa reported to this Joint Sitting last Friday, that "on 16 December last year, former President Jacob Zuma announced that Government would be phasing in fully subsidised free higher education and training for poor and working class South Africans over a five-year period". He continued to say "starting this year, free higher education and training will be available to first year students from households with a gross combined annual income of up to R350,000".

President Ramaphosa further said that "the Minister of Higher Education and Training will lead the implementation of this policy. In addition to promoting social justice, an investment of this scale in higher education, is expected to contribute to greater economic growth, reduce poverty, reduce inequality, enhance earnings and increase the competitiveness of our economy".

I wish to remind this august Joint Sitting and the country at large, that the Freedom Charter promised that "Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit." Government has been working consistently to grow the universities, as well as the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges to open up spaces for young people to study, so that we can fulfil the promise of the Freedom Charter.

While, much has been done over the past twenty-three years of our democratic dispensation, to increase funding for poor students through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), and to a lesser extent the Funza Lushaka bursaries, to access these opportunities, and funding has been consistently growing to support poor students. However, the overall funding has always fallen short of demand; resulting in not all poor and working class students, having been able to access funding support, even when they would merit spaces within the university or TVET system.

The ANC-led Government has ensured the nation that education will remain its apex priority. I am proud to say that Government has done very well to extend access to higher education and training to poor and working class students. This year, Government will accelerate the implementation of a new financial support model, to support academically capable poor and working class students to access higher education and training. Government is fulfilling this commitment by introducing fee-free higher education and training in the form of bursaries to young people from poor and working class South African households, with a gross combined annual income of up to R350 000.

This will be implemented from this academic, through the provision of full bursaries for tuition and study materials to qualifying South African students at public TVET colleges and universities, as well as subsidised accommodation and subsistence or transport, capped at specific levels for those who qualify for assistance.

In the 2018 academic year, all registered TVET College students from South African households with gross annual income of R350 000 or less, will qualify and receive bursaries. In the case of university students, the new policy will be phased over a period of five years, starting with first time entering students in 2018. For returning existing NSFAS funded university students, in 2018 and going forward, their loans will be converted into full bursaries.

Government will ensure that the implementation of fee-free higher education and training for poor and working class students, is implemented in a phased approach to ensure sustainability of Government finances; while at the same time, ensuring improved access to higher education and training. I am convinced that the Minister of Finance, through the Government budgeting process, will be able to clarify all aspects of the financing of the scheme during the Budget Vote on 21 February 2018.

"education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant, can become a doctor; that the son of a mine worker, can become the head of the mine; that a child of farm workers, can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another".

The Department of Higher Education and Training will convene a Summit, at which the private and public sectors, and all relevant stakeholders would be invited, to deliberate on matters pertinent to the new funding model, including the challenges relating to low graduation and high dropout rates at all universities and TVET colleges. We must all agree and support the implementation of free-fee higher education for poor and working class South African youth.


Madam Speaker, Madam Chairperson, His Excellency the President, and Honourable Members, let me conclude by emphasising the need to improve the quality of learning and teaching outcomes across our education system. This is an imperative, if we have to tackle the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment; and stimulate our economic growth and development; and help ourselves us to leapfrog towards a just, equitable, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa that we are yearning for.

We must ensure that more learners reach the basic levels of literacy and numeracy in the Foundation Phase. This is an overriding determinant of how successful learners will be in their 12 years of their long walk to Matric; and largely determines whether learners will cope with schooling at all, or run the risk of dropping out and add to the huge numbers of young people not employed, not in education nor in training. We must make early grade learning and teaching a priority.

Before I conclude, I must reflect on education infrastructure delivery, both at the basic education as well as higher education and training levels. In the basic education sector, we have convened several meetings with infrastructure professionals, to agree on innovative ways of accelerate the delivery of quality school infrastructure. There is a measure of success in some areas, though not at the pace we would like. The higher education and training sector is faced with student accommodation challenges. We must, with the involvement of National Treasury, the Department of Public Works, and other relevant stakeholders, find creative ways of accelerating infrastructure delivery. There are alternative technologies and strategies available, that we could consider, including investigating the education infrastructure model, rolled-out in Rwanda by His Excellency, President Paul Kagame, and the "Adopt-a-School" programme for school infrastructure rehabilitation.

We must mobilise our communities to be active participants in the Thuma Mina campaign. This campaign looks at the direct involvement of communities in school infrastructure delivery and maintenance; and ensures community involvement in the roll-out of critical programmes, such as the "Read to Lead" Campaign, the Second Chance Programme, the Incremental Introduction of African Languages. Communities should ensure that time on task is a reality in all our schools.

(a) although, we are still at a low base, with each cycle since 2006, the reading scores have improved;

(b) the Grade 4s in 2016, achieved a similar score to what the Grade 5s achieved in 2006;

(c) at a Grade 5 level, the 10 year trends show that there has been an improvement in IsiZulu between 2006 and 2016;

(d) there has been a statistically significant improvement among Grade 4s in five African languages; namely, IsiNdebele, Sepedi, Sesotho, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga, and in 2016 a significantly larger number of learners who wrote the test in Sesotho scored above the minimum benchmark than observed in 2011;

(e) the scores of girl learners have been better than those of boy learners with each test cycle, and the gap is widening; and

I thank you.