Address by the Northern Cape MEC for Social Development, Alvin Botes, on the occasion of the launch of Tina Cowley Reading Centre, Kimberley
26 May 2010
Pastor Mokallee, Chairperson of the United Ministries Association
Mr Louw, Chairperson of the Roepersfontein Drop In Centre
Ms Cowley, Franchisor
Mr MacKenzie, Principal of Roodepan Primary
Mr Collins, Parent Representative
Ms Van Nel, Project Manager
Ladies and gentlemen
The ANC has put education as the number one policy priority to be looked at during our term of office. Our approach to education derives its inspiration from the Freedom Charter.
The charter says: "Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit; adult illiteracy shall be ended by a mass state education plan".
Ladies and gentlemen,
Education is crucial: for better child care and family life; for handling the difficult transition from childhood to teenager; for improving health, diet and hygiene; to satisfy cultural needs and make people whole, rounded, fully human beings; for political understanding to withstand imperialist cultural domination and brainwashing; for reducing privilege and relative poverty and hence the social exclusion, crime and anti-social behaviour that stems from them.
The quickest way out of poverty for communities such as Roodepan is through education.
Ladies and gentlemen,
What was the education history of the apartheid state?
As a result of educational deprivation in the past, there are currently 4.7 million adults in South Africa who never went to school and are totally illiterate. A further 4.9 million adults are functionally illiterate (as they left school before grade seven).
Acquiring literacy and numeracy skills goes a long way towards addressing the inequalities of the past, as adults learn not only to read and write, but to take control of their everyday lives through activities like banking, filling in forms, reading work instructions and voting
Ladies and gentlemen,
What is the current education status in our communities?
- Access to our primary and secondary schooling has reached near universal enrolment, with the participation of girls being the highest in the world.
- A total of 98 percent of children aged from seven to 15 years are enrolled in schools.
- Eighty eight percent for six year olds and participation rate for children aged four and five (grade R) in Early Child Development (ECD) has now reached 70 percent.
- The matriculation pass rate has increased from 58 percent in 1994 to 65 percent in 2007.
- Pupil to teacher ratios has improved from 43 to one in 1996 to 32 to one in 2006.
- Government is determined to "break the back" of illiteracy in South Africa by 2004. There are about six million functionally illiterate adults in the country.
- Mass mobilisation around the literacy campaign means that it is now covering more than 350 000 of our people who cannot read and write. We are well within targets to ensure South Africa is free of illiteracy by 2014, through the mass literacy campaign of Kha Ri Gude.
Ladies and gentlemen,
What needs to be done?
We are introducing as a government, the sustainable early childhood education system that spans both public and private sectors, and gives children head start on numeracy and literacy. The ANC government is training 15 000 trainers per annum and strengthens support for crèches and pre-schools in rural areas.
We will work to improve the quality of schooling, particularly performance in maths, science and technology. Measures will include provision of incentives for maths and science teachers.
Ladies and gentlemen,
What are the objective realities about low literacy levels in our communities?
Literacy rates in South Africa are very low. 30 percent of adults are functionally illiterate. One of the basic causes of this is the lack of money to fund education. Although up to 20 percent of the nation's budget is spent on educational programs, resources are not sufficient to provide every learner with the opportunity to become a confident reader and writer.
Inequitable funding structures, disparities in school fees, insufficient teacher training, lack of supplementary materials in indigenous African languages, absence of access to books are typically seen as the causes of low literacy rates. While these are certainly key factors, specialists also point out that South Africa does not have a "reading culture".
The attitudes toward reading in particular are not conducive to literacy, and include:
- reading is not something people do during their free time
- reading is not something useful outside of school
- reading is often not seen as an empowering skill.
A huge chunk of the population does not have books in their homes. Drop-out rates are above 50 percent, with many students finding no point in continuing, or getting recruited by neighbourhood gangs.
AFM Roepersfontein church in Roodepan, Kimberley
This Roepersfontein is the social development arm of the church and is a registered non-profit organisation (NPO) that started as a partnership between the Department of Social Development and the church in 2006/07, with a launch pad of about R570 000. What started as a soup kitchen is today an established walk-in with a basket of services.
Their founding purpose having been to articulate and drive community development in Roodepan specifically, but they have since altered that intent to mean primarily Roodepan, but the greater Kimberley in general.
So when the management of this centre came to us, we dually responded by investing as a department in the formation of a youth centre to the value of R140 000 in addition to the R285 000 we gave to all drop in centres for the financial year.
To show that this NPO is indeed serious about development, when we facilitated an NPO conference in 2008, amongst the stakeholders invited to make presentations there was the Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (ABSA). In their presentation they made promises and the Leadership of this centre took them up on their ward, and they were handsomely rewarded as ABSA invested in the foundation of a pre-school and other income generating programs to the tune of R252 000.
We are converging again here today because there are no boundaries or limits to the development and growth potential, so long as you have got passion and drive.
In the year 2009 the drop in centre brought an application to the department to fund the procurement of a Tina Cowley Reading Centre. The Project Manager, Ms Melanie van Nel, has for over two years been vying to secure such a dynamic instrument in the fight against poor literacy skills.
With the franchisor successfully convinced to sell the franchise to a NPO, also a first for them, the biggest task was to present a business case to the department that would facilitate a departure from the current funding philosophy. A few nervous months ensued for the drop in centre as the department performed due diligence, background checks and appraised the ability of the franchise to make an impact.
After having satisfied ourselves as a department that this indeed would work and contribute towards own objectives as a government to out-route illiteracy, we then gave R373 000 towards the purchase of a reading centre franchise. Of the 105 franchises in the country, and the second in Kimberley, this is the first to be owned by an NPO.
A first for the franchisor, a first for the department and a first for Roodepan, we should not be afraid of venturing in to such initiatives because they have never been done before, let us become the ACUMEDERS' of our own times. Let us discover new ways and means to deliver us out of poverty
The centre opened its doors in Roodepan in April and is currently operated by the Tina Cowley centre in town, until their Therapists complete their training and take over from mid-June.
At R250 per assessment and R80 per week, the service is out of the reach of the majority of those children who, perhaps, require it most. So the intention is to introduce a payment system with four categories premised on a means test of joint monthly household income.
This will allow that those who can afford the service does pay, while those who require intervention but lack the resources, are assisted to benefit from their government's investment into their futures.
We will have to initiate different pricing for different category of our people, such as:
- Category one: orphaned and vulnerable children
- Category two: children on support grants
- Category three: poor youth between ages of 14 to 18
- Category four: poor households (consistent with war on poverty focus)
- Category five: people who can afford the service
The drop in centre must strike a fine balance between guaranteeing access to government sponsored, quality remedial reading interventions while observing our franchise contractual agreements whereby they must not prejudice the existing franchise in the central business district (CBD).
To this end, the drop in centre is aggressively pursuing funding institutions to partner with to augment the shortfall in the four categories where the learner will not pay the full amount. In other words, serious commitment exists on their part to assist the poorest of the poor while a gradual increase in own contribution occurs as household income increases.
The centre has also engaged with the Department of Education whereby they would be able to partner together with intervention programs at the level of Dinaledi Schools in general and grades three six and nine in particular.
We as a department are very proud to be having this partnership, or should I say relationship, were there is visible growth and communities are able to can benefit. Of course we will be able to see some of the impact as we have just launched two days ago a program on household surveys, and we will be visiting families in Roodepan and the larger Kimberley.
We still believe that through this kind of operations we are giving credence to the Slogan that "WORKING TOGETHER, WE CAN DO MORE".
Today is the commencement of the Child Protection Week under the theme: "Caring Communities Protect Children". Let us re-awaken our common caring attitude towards our neighbours' children and ensure that indeed our children are the future leaders of our country. Let us ensure that our children are an improvement on ourselves, having better education, better reading abilities and a better education.
I thank you.
Issued by: Northern Cape Social Development
26 May 2010
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