On Thursday, 20 June 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa made his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) – his first since being officially elected president this year – and while some feel his speech was “high on dreams” and “low on detail”, we certainly hope the promises he’s made for our children’s future and education are met.
Although News24 reported in January that the matric pass rate for 2018 was up from 2017 at 79.4%, South Africa continues to present with worrying statistics when it comes to education.
For one, the Department of Basic Education is proposing a no repeat policy for grade R to 3 as teachers struggle to cope with the high influx of children repeating grade 1, while the most recent Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) indicated 8 out of 10 Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning.
Further to this, Stats SA revealed that despite the fact that education in the foundation phase is crucial to a child’s development, 63% of children do not attend preschool in SA, and 50% aren’t having their early childhood development nurtured at home either, having never read a book with their parents.
It’s a constant backlog, and the learning difficulties start early on, but President Ramaphosa is hopeful we can change this.
Here’s what he said, specifically on education, in his 2019 State of the Nation Address:
President Ramaphosa spoke of the National Development Plan (NDP) adopted in 2012 to guide our national effort to defeat poverty, unemployment and inequality. “However, with 10 years to go before we reach the year 2030, we have not made nearly enough progress in meeting the NDP targets,” he said. As such, he shared a seven-priority focus, one of them being education with the aspiration that “Our schools will have better educational outcomes and every 10-year-old will be able to read for meaning.”
“Fellow South Africans,
If we are to ensure that within the next decade, every 10-year-old will be able to read for meaning, we will need to mobilise the entire nation behind a massive reading campaign.
Early reading is the basic foundation that determines a child’s educational progress, through school, through higher education and into the workplace.
All other interventions – from the work being done to improve the quality of basic education to the provision of free higher education for the poor, from our investment in Technical and Vocational Education Training colleges to the expansion of workplace learning – will not produce the results we need unless we first ensure that children can read.
It is through initiatives like the National Reading Coalition that we will be able to coordinate this national effort.
All foundation and intermediate phase teachers are to be trained to teach reading in English and the African languages, and we are training and deploying a cohort of experienced coaches to provide high-quality on-site support to teachers.
We are implementing the Early Grade Reading Programme, which consists of an integrated package of lesson plans, additional reading materials and professional support to Foundation Phase teachers.
This forms part of the broader efforts to strengthen the basic education system by empowering school leadership teams, improving the capabilities of teachers and ensuring a more consistent measurement of progress for grades three, six and nine.
We also have to prepare our young people for the jobs of the future.
This is why we are introducing subjects like coding and data analytics at a primary school level.”
Source: South African Government website
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