Remarks by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at Sedibeng West District’s Dialogue on Strategic Response to the Impact of Covid 19 on Schooling, 09 April 2021
Sedibeng West District Director: Mr B.V Thetha
Principals and Learners
Donors and partners
Fellow South Africans,
Programme Director, the year 2021 marks the 27 years since the dawn of democracy.
It is sixty-six years of the seminal document, the Freedom Charter, which forms our Constitution’s foundation.
Most importantly, it marks the 25 years since our Constitution was signed into law in 1996 by our late founding father of the new South Africa, President Nelson Mandela.
Our Constitution is regarded as one of the most progressive and transformative constitutions in the world.
The significance of our Constitution becomes apparent because it is the supreme law of the land.
It is the people’s contract to « heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights ».
The Constitution enshrines all people’s rights in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality, and freedom.
The Constitution lays the foundation for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people.
Our moral imperative as the Government is to ensure that all South Africans, without exception, enjoy all human rights as enshrined in our Constitution.
Our democracy and, by extension, our Constitution is a product of struggle.
Our history is awash with selfless patriots who paved the way for a democratic and free South Africa.
The year 2021 marks the 150th anniversary of struggle icon and human rights campaigner Mama Charlotte Maxeke.
The Government working closely with the Charlotte Maxeke Institute declared 2021 as the Year of Charlotte Maxeke.
She is the 2nd woman after struggle icon Mama Albertina Sisulu, in the post-apartheid SA, to be honoured in this way.
Nevertheless, it is against the pervasive nature of patriarchy and continued violence against women and girls that 150 years since her birth, her era’s challenges still abounds.
Our gesture of invoking the memory of Maxeke is a symbolic measure in reassuring the South African society that the government’s commitment to gender equality remains unyielding.
Mama Maxeke and other selfless women of her generation fought against oppression when such defiance was met with unrelenting force.
Mama Maxeke helped organise the anti-pass movement in Bloemfontein in 1913 and was at the forefront of fighting for social justice.
As we celebrate our human rights and the upcoming Freedom Day, we dare not forget those who sacrificed everything for us to be free.
Through their sacrifices, we now live in a country, which recognises women as equal citizens with equal rights and responsibilities.
We meet today to dialogue on the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the realisation and fulfilment of the schooling community’s fundamental human rights as enshrined in our Constitution.
The pandemic hugely disrupted schooling, not to mention the resultant loss of many breadwinners’ lives and livelihoods put under pressure on a scale unprecedented in our fledgling democracy.
It’s no exaggeration to state that the year 2020 was the annus horribilis for us as a nation since the dawn of freedom in 1994.
The Covid-19 global health emergency tested our people’s resilience, threatened to overwhelm our health system and destroy people’s livelihoods.
It was not only challenging for the schooling sector but for our young democracy as well.
We had to limit individual liberties while battling the pandemic for the first in recent memory.
We derive no pleasure whatsoever in having to limit people’s liberties.
As I said earlier, the freedoms we enjoy today came due to many years of a collective and spirited struggle against the apartheid regime.
Thus, we must cherish and advance our freedoms as long as we live in honour of the brave martyrs of our freedom struggle, including Mama Maxeke and countless others.
Nonetheless, the Matric Class of 2020 did us proud.
I take this opportunity to congratulate them once again.
My special gratitude goes to the Sedibeng West District for outstanding achievement in the 2020 National Senior Certificate results against all the odds.
As a testament to the Sedibeng West District’s pioneering nature, we convene today to solidify our plans to mitigate the impact of the pandemic in the year 2021 and beyond.
I wish to assure the nation and you, Programme Director, that as a sector, we are more prepared this year than we were in March 2020.
The devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic halted some of our infrastructure projects. Still, it also forced us to fast track others, such as water, hygiene, and temporal ablution facilities.
We have successfully repurposed our schools as key health centres in the battle of our lives against the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Sedibeng West’s Strategic Response to the Impact of Covid 19 on Schooling speaks directly to this crucial policy shift.
Our Covid-19 response pivots around saving lives and protecting livelihoods.
In the schooling sector, the key is to ameliorate the effects of Covid- 19 and provide integrated support that would ensure learner attainment and reduce learner attrition in the system.
We seek to achieve this through collaboration, partnerships and expanding learner involvement and support as we dialogue with some learners today.
The strategic response is in line with six Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) strategic pillars, which includes the following:
Comprehensive Health Response. (All school must comply with Integrated School Health Policy-by being Health Promoting schools)
Food Security and Social Relief. (Every learner must have access to the National School Nutrition Programme)
Social Mobilisation and Human Solidarity. (Internal and external school community including learners must exude empathy)
Economic responses. (More focus on entrepreneurial skills and skills development).
Furthermore, the strategic response seeks to support learners in our township and farm schools within the District by addressing psycho-social and enhancing access to curriculum needs.
I am happy to report that all schools within the District have been positively impacted by our response, with 100 learners identified as needing targeted intervention.
As we speak, 40 of those learners are part of today’s event.
To sharpen our response and tools of analysis, we thought it best to open an opportunity for learners to talk back.
The idea is to get it from the horse’s mouth as it were.
The aim is to have a point of discussion about learners’ experiences and feelings on how their fundamental human rights are being affected by the pandemic
We also intend to workshop learners about their human rights and how to advance and protect them.
At least four schools with infrastructure challenges have been identified and are receiving the necessary intervention in the areas of sanitation, amongst others.
We are making progress in saving lives and protecting livelihoods.
In conclusion, I send my deepest condolences to the schooling sector’s families and loved ones whose lives have been lost in recent times due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the recent study using the « so-called excess deaths approach » to estimate Covid-19 deaths among publicly employed educators, we have lost just over 1,321 teachers by 25 January 2021.
The excess death figure of public sector teachers stood at 760 by 15 December 2020.
These figures are only for the employed government teachers whose details appear on the government payroll system, which registers deaths, though not the cause of death.
We again send our condolences to all the grieving families. Your loss cuts too deep.
I thank all our fallen teachers who, like patriotic soldiers, died with their boots on. There were engaged in the noble battle against illiteracy and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Out of the ruins of the destruction occasioned by the Covid-19 in our basic education system, let’s emerge from this crisis with a new post-Covid-19 pandemic’s social compact.
I, thank you.