In his speech, Minister Manuel said the main focus of the Vision 2030 document titled 'Our Future – make it work' is to use the backdrop of the Constitution for South Africans to start living out its values.
"The Constitution is an incredibly strong document that needs to be lived out and the starting point is to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality. These two aspects are not the same. No one should live in poverty. We use a poverty measure of R432 per person per month as an indicator and currently about 20 million or 40% of people in South Africa lives below the poverty line.
He went on to say that, inequality is a difficult issue, as more learners go on to higher education having come from communities where education is not attainable or a high priority.
"We must be mindful of poverty issues as we look at the present anger among mine workers and truck drivers."
Minister Manuel said that there is no longer room for hollow promises and that there are two important issues to pay attention to regarding better education.
"One is to look at education in its entirety from foundation phase to high school and post school education that should include trade/artisanship's, as well as post-university research and innovation. It is no longer enough to get through school or university. You only have to look at the United States to see that there are one and half million BA graduates that are unemployed because they have not been trained in skills that are needed."
According to Minister Manuel, the NPC looked at other government departments with strong policies and asked the question "Why are we not implementing them?"
He commented that under apartheid teachers had a certain pride and commitment to produce good students.
"Then we had liberation – what are we doing with education and where are we going with it, remembering and treasuring the sacrifices of those who fought for it?"
The vision for education must include empowering parental involvement, as parents outsource their responsibility to educators. We need to set targets for ourselves and work towards it."
Minister Manuel admitted that there is still a huge divide between former model C schools and township schools although they all receive the same state funding.
He further commented that the 2010 - 2011 assessment for grade 6 maths showed that 69% of learners could not attain a 35% pass.
"The measure of the current problem for me is that we cannot wait until learners get to grade 12 to solve problems, we need to know how to fix the problems long before then."
He said that many educators are not moving forward with the times. "We in South Africa must understand the interest of the next generation and the global situation and model education accordingly. Improve maths and science levels even if we have to import educators to educate our teachers and to implement information technology in schools. We are falling behind other African countries including Zimbabwe, in this regard."
Minister Manuel added that all issues of race and class manifest in education as grade 6 learners from township schools struggle with pass rates as low as 1- 2% compared to 86% pass rates at former fee paying model C schools, where school governing bodies are active and raise extra funds to supplement state funding.
"We have to empower parents and encourage and strengthen school governing bodies. It amazes me that at some schools parents are not told what is happening with their children's education. They need to take an active role in education and encourage their children at home as well as at school.'
The role of teachers came under the spotlight with continued evaluation of competency. "We need to ensure that teachers feel accountable to principals. Principals need to be appointed on competency and skills – it is a job that requires a skills set to manage 1200 learners."
The role of oversight and responsibility of Vision 2030 education policy was a question most asked.
Minister Manuel reiterated that every citizen in South Africa has a responsibility in ensuring the positive future of education over the next 18 years. "You cannot pass sole responsibility on to government, everyone has to get involved including the learners here tonight, who will be the country's leaders in 18 years time. It is a role that government, educators, civil society and businesses have to be involved in."
Commenting on the Rachel's Angels Trust, Minister Manuel said there needs to be more 'angels' coming forward to implement programmes to impove the quality of education and mentor learners, some of whom are the first generation to complete matric and go on to further education.
Rachel's Angels Trust which was founded in 2007 is a joint project between Media24 and Stellenbosch University that aims to contribute towards the building of excellence in high school education in the Western Cape. It currently includes mentorship programmes between grade 11 learners from 20 disadvantaged schools and second and third year students from Stellenbosch University.
Co-founder and chairperson of the trust, Professor Rachel Jafta said the board of trustees' aim is to make a difference in education that goes beyond academics. "We take a holistic approach helping students from similar disadvantaged backgrounds who have problems adjusting to the alien environment of university. They have no role models and by the time they get used to university life – three months has already gone by, they are late for their first test series and start to lose confidence as they lag behind their peers."
Professor Jafta said that the mentoring process builds confidence and prepares students to life after school.
"The Rachel's Angels Trust stands for academic excellence – we encourage particpating schools to compete and do better every year. Last year the pass rate was very good as 95% of our 'angels' passed matric."
Professor Jafta has been nominated in the Shoprite Checkers Woman of the Year awards for her contribution to education.From left to right Rachel's Angels trustee member Mrs Luzelle Lestrade, Rachel's Angels Trust's Deputy Chairperson Dr. Michael Le Cordeur, the Chairperson of the Rachel's Angels Trust Professor Rachel Jafta, Minister Trevor Manuel, Rachel's Angels trustee members Heindrich Wyngaard and Rolene Liebenberg.
About Rachel's Angels Trust
Launched in 2007, Rachel's Angels is Media24's largest corporate social investment programme. This Western Cape based mentorship programme is aimed at Grade 11 and 12 (Standard 9 and 10) learners, with an emphasis on improving academic abilities and life skills in order to help them to deal more effectively with post-matric challenges.
After a 2-month recruitment drive, beginning in June each year, 20 new multicultural and previously disadvantaged schools are selected as programme candidates. A total of 140 learners are then selected to participate in a new 2-year cycle, each paired with their own individual mentor. Mentors are senior students (second year and above) recruited from the University of Stellenbosch.
The project was conceptualised by Professor Rachel Jafta from Stellenbosch University's Department of Economics, Koos Bekker, Managing Director of Naspers and Professor Jakes Gerwel, Chairman of Media24.
Media24 Rachel's Angels Trust Project Manager
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