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Minister Pandor`s speech on education, SONA debate

17 February 2016

Madam Speaker, Mr President, Deputy President, honourable members and guests.

Yesterday we saw that the Honourable Leader of the Opposition lives on a planet of his own making, where he composes fairy tales full of gargoyles that are a figment of his imagination. In his fantasy world he is king of all he dreams of and tries to use the fairy tale as his lets pretend I will rule one day.

The tragedy in this is that he fools no one including himself. His imagination knows no bounds. He sees the Western Cape as a sea of success and tranquility for those in Khayelitsha as much as for those in Llandudno. Those who believe he is genuine must be astounded as they know Western Cape hugely benefitted historically from influx control and the worst excesses of apartheid.

The notion that all is so well in the Cape must be a tragic pain for the mothers of Hanover Park and Manenberg whose children are murdered daily in this imagined paradise of the leader of the opposition.

Even worse than fairy tales was the rather pathetic attempt to make us the victims of racist insults by members of his party the ones accused by him of racism. Those who believe he is worth the position he holds would surely have wished he would leave planet Honourable Maimane and issue an apology from this podium he claims to revere. The Honourable is learning that the victims of oppression are often made blameworthy by those who despise them. So it now is with the Honourable leader.

The Honourable Van Damme and Honourable Davis keenly wanted more on education. We suggest they begin by honestly acknowledging it was President Jacob Zuma who signalled education as the main priority of this government.

Honourable Maimane claimed not much has been achieved in education let me continue where the Honourable Sisulu ended.

This government has steered the achievement of successes in education that are unparalleled in the education history of post colonial Africa.

All honourable members prepared to acknowledge the truth know what has been done in just twenty-one years is truly remarkable.

The ANC led by president Mandela legislated ten years of compulsory education at the inception of democracy in 1995. He laid the foundation for us to celebrate achieving universal access to basic education for all girls and boys.

Beyond this

1. The percentage of five year olds attending educational institutions at Grade R has increased to 87,2 per cent.

2. We have a 100% intake for grade 1.

3. The percentage of 14-18 year olds attending educational institutions is at 90.7%.

4. The percentage of 5 year old children with disabilities attending educational institutions is at 83.9%.

5. The percentage of 7-15 year old children with disabilities attending educational institutions is at 93.4%.

6. The number of learners who benefit from the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) is 9.2 million out of a total of 12.6 million learners in public schools.

7. The number of learners who benefit from the No- fee school policy is 9.4 million out of 12.6 million learners in public schools.

8. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of learners writing and completing  grade 12, from 532 860 in 2014 to 644-306 in 2015. The 2015 numbers are the highest in the history of South Africa.

9. One of the most encouraging outcomes of 2015 is the improvement in the quality of performance in Quintile 1 to 3 schools. This contributed greater numbers of bachelors passes and distinctions.

Honourable members our colleagues in these benches know these facts, but their desperation to deliver election speeches causes them to wilfully ignore the facts.

Of course, being a caring and transparent government, we readily and openly admit that our twenty-one years have not addressed all the challenges we face fully.

We must continue to strenuously expand and entrench quality.

We must still achieve the President`s and the ANC directive that teachers must be in school, teaching on time, and fully covering the curriculum.

We acknowledge more must be done to expand technical educational to achieve full access and provision of teaching and learning materials.

We have said education has to become a societal issue all of South Africa must recognise education as the priority focus area.

Honourable ? expressed deep admiration for the fees must fall. This is not surprising, as the lack of policy and ideas compels her to grab any public event that suits her as her own.

Let me outline what we admire in higher education.

  • the increase in student headcount enrolments from 837 779 in 2010 to 1 000 328 in 2015. Again remarkable in twenty one years.

- university participation rate of of just under 20% in 2014 up from 15,4% in 2003.

  • a largely transformed student population by 2014 with 72% african, 6% coloured, and 5% Indian enrolments in the system as compared to 2003 proportions of 62% African, 25% white, 6% coloured and 7% Indian.
  • 3 new universities have been created sol Platjee university, university of Mpumalanga, and Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences university and there is a brand new medical school at Limpopo university.
  • Progress has been made in technical and vocational education with TVET a national competence today. We have increased TCET enrolments from 345,566 students in 2010 to a target of 800,000 for 2015. Nine community colleges have been established with over 3 276 community learning centre sand satellite learning centers.
  • The government of the ANC took action to address the funding needs of the poorest as shown by having invested over R50 billion in loans and bursaries via NSFAS.

The political expediency that causes the opposition to suggest that nothing has been done is a failed political ploy that will not secure them votes.

Young people know NSFAS bursary funding has increased at TVET colleges from R318 million in 2010 to R2.2 billion in 2015.

Furthermore student bursary funding at universities has increased from 2.2 billion in 2010 to 4.1 billion in 2015.

The ANC government and the president has heard the plight of students who are poor and still not able to meet the costs of higher education. That is why we have agreed to provide funding to with universities to compensate for not having a fee increase in 2016.

Madam Speaker, it is not only in education that we see progress. Our scientists are working hard to build the Meerkat as a precursor to the global SKA project.

South Africa is increasingly recognised as a science and innovation focussed nation.

This is shown by the award of the prestigious AU Kwame Nkurumah prize to professor Abdool Karrim in 2015 and to professor Tebello Nyokong in 2016.

We are also thrilled that our own Kevin Govender is to join a prestigious list of awardees when he receives the 2016 Edinburgh medal for his work in the Astronomy Development Office at the South African Astronomical Observatory.

Of course, none of these achievements and signs of steady progress should distract us from the need to find solutions to the ongoing challenges of financial need in higher education, especially the plight of families and students who cannot access NSFAS or other loan schemes.

Attention to the transformation challenges of gender equality, non racism, inadequate accountability as well as curriculum reform remain on our agenda.

Nevertheless we urge all students to focus on learning and we ask all parents who can afford to pay fees to do so.

We condemn wanton destruction and violence on campuses and support Minister Nzimande in his efforts to ensure a successful academic year.

We firmly believe the record books speak to our progress in education and we are certain history will mark our first twenty years as a significant and fundamental departure with our awful past.

No amount of vilification of President Zuma and his government will erase this history, just as hatred of President Zuma will never propel Honourable Maimane to the leadership of South Africa.

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