Zuma reads teachers the riot act

2009-06-03 12:45

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday warned teachers to take their jobs seriously, and said additional training would become a prerequisite for promotion in the profession.

"Education will be a key priority for the next five years. We want our teachers, learners and parents to work with government to turn our schools into thriving centres of excellence," he told Parliament in his first State of the Nation address.

"We reiterate our non-negotiables. Teachers should be in school, in class on time, teaching, with no neglect of duty and no abuse of pupils," the president said, to loud applause from MPs.

At the same time, he added, pupils should attend class, be respectful and do their homework.

Further training

Responding to repeated complaints that some teachers are underqualified, Zuma said further training would in future be essential to obtain promotion.

"To improve school management, formal training will be a pre-condition for promoting teachers to become principals or heads of department."

He said the government was "extremely" concerned at reports of sexual abuse of pupils, and vowed to crack down on offenders.

"We will take very serious and very decisive action against any teachers who abuse their authority and power by entering into sexual relationships with children."

Zuma said the education ministry would aim to increase the number of South Africans youth who attend secondary school to 95% in five years' time.

"We are looking at innovative measures to bring back into the system pupils who dropped out of school, and to provide support."

He also said the government would try to improve access to higher education for children from poor families, and to find a sustainable funding model for universities.