Focus on education paying off, says Zuma
Cape town - Government's "intensive focus" on education is paying off, but many children are still not attending school, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
"We are pleased that the matric percentage pass is on an upward trend," he said in his annual State of the Nation address to Parliament.
"We congratulate the teachers, learners, parents, and the communities for the efforts. We will continue to invest in producing more teachers who can teach mathematics, science, and African languages."
Government's call to teachers to be in school, in class, on time, and teaching for at least seven hours a day remained pivotal to success.
Zuma said a major achievement was the doubling of grade R enrolment, from 300 000 in 2003 to 705 000 in 2011.
"We appear poised to meet our target of 100% coverage for grade R by 2014."
To fight poverty and inequality and to keep pupils in school, over eight million pupils attended no-fee schools while over eight million benefited the school feeding scheme.
School attendance in the country was now close to 100% for the compulsory band, 7-15 years of age.
"But we remain concerned by the report of the General Household Survey in 2010 that just over 120 000 children in that band are out of school."
Grade 10 drop-outs appear to be a problem, particularly in the rural and farm areas of the Western Cape.
National government would work closely with the Western Cape government to trace these pupils and provide support so that they did not lose their future.
"With regards to higher education, we are exceeding targets."
Close to 14 000 students were placed in workplace learning opportunities over the past year, and over 11 000 artisans had completed their trade tests.
"To expand access to tertiary education as per our announcement last year, R200m was utilised to assist 25 000 students to pay off their debts to institutions of higher learning," Zuma said.