Address at the Western Cape launch of the Bill of Responsibilities Campaign by Minister of Basic Education
23 Mar 2011
Honourable Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Naledi Pandor
MEC for Education, Mr Donald Grant
Members of the School Governing Body
The Principal, Educators, and Learners of Glendale
I am very delighted to interact with the Glendale Secondary School community and our social partners on this important occasion, the launch of the Bill of Responsibilities Campaign.
This launch is very timely, taking place just two days after Human Rights Day which was celebrated under the theme, “Working together to protect human dignity for all”.
Our learners may not have been told how this beautiful country came to cherish human dignity, equality and freedom for all. I want you to always remember that your rights as young people were not given to you on a silver platter. Your parents and heroes and heroines of the struggle gave their all to ensure you can assemble freely with us here to talk about rights.
Many paid the ultimate price in defence of human dignity including those who were shot in cold-blood in Sharpeville and Langa. Mitchell’s Plain was no exception. It is here that the United Democratic Front was formed in August 1983 to help create a better South Africa belonging to all who live in it, where children would grow and learn freely in a caring society.
The Bill of Responsibilities, which was launched in March 2008, is a guide for learners and schools. It is a practical document that outlines the responsibilities that correspond with the rights found in the Bill of Rights, in Chapter 2 of the Constitution, which is the supreme law of this country.
The Constitution of 1996 was a milestone in our journey to build a new nation, united in its diversity. This Constitution has extended the right to education to all children. It has provided the necessary checks and balances to ensure children are protected from all forms of abuse.
From what we see every day in our streets, in our communities and in our schools, it is very clear that many of our people, young and old, are not paying serious attention to the fact that every right goes with a corresponding responsibility, that all rights come with obligations.
We are aware that many of our people, especially the youth, like yourselves, know the rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution.
The reality we seem to ignore tragically is that these rights impose certain responsibilities on us and on how we relate with those around us. It was out of this concern that the Bill of Responsibilities was developed with the help of the National Religious Leaders Forum.
With the Bill of Responsibilities we are saying to our learners, teachers, parents, and communities: ‘Working together we can inculcate a culture of responsible citizenship in our schools’.
A special message to our learners is that we should at all times assert our rights responsibly ensuring others are not unduly harmed in the process.
As responsible learners in a democratic and open society, we should make sure that we do not bully other children; that we do not cause harm to others; that we do not take what belongs to others; do not damage school property and do not discriminate against anyone on any grounds, be it racial, gender, age, religion, language, national origin, or sexual orientation.
This I must emphasise: the Constitution gives you the right to education, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you are punctual at school, that you do your homework, that you respect your teachers and fellow learners, and treat everybody with dignity.
While we view academic achievement of learners as a key indicator of quality in our public education system, we also expect education to help us promote commonly shared values and a human rights culture for the benefit of all our people.
It breaks my heart to have to talk about assaults and people getting stabbed with knives on school premises like we recently saw in Soweto.
While we want you to become excellent mathematicians, physicists, accountants, lawyers, artisans, teachers, engineers, and so on, we also want you to display and promote the values of a free and democratic society, the values of Ubuntu.
While learners are important stakeholders, school governing bodies (SGB), parents, teachers, principals, and officials, must all act responsibly in the interest of quality education. In fact, the Bill of Responsibilities will enable us to implement the President’s call to make education a societal issue.
We are very fortunate to have among us dedicated teachers and parents who are always willing to help us mobilise schools and communities in support of better education.
I am well aware of the many challenges facing public schools here in the Western Cape, and in particular, in the Cape Peninsula, including unemployment, poverty, crime and substance abuse. These challenges seriously affect schooling.
As schools we can and must take a tough stand against social ills like crime, drugs and alcohol abuse, and do so within the parameters of the law. In this regard, the social compact between schools and the community is very vital.
I trust that from today you will all protect the wellbeing of others, be it at school or in the broader community of Mitchell’s Plain. Be your brother’s keeper and your sister’s keeper!
I am happy that the urgent call for a social compact is gathering momentum. We can proudly speak of a partnership between the national Department of Basic Education, Lead-SA and the South African Interfaith Council.
This partnership model excites me precisely because it clearly demonstrates that working together as government, civil society and business, we can do more to create a better life for all by supporting quality education and human dignity for all.
We must take this campaign of promoting the bill to all our schools. It is the most effective way of teaching learners about the values of rights and responsibilities, it is a potent tool for preventing vices like teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, illicit sex on school premises, violence and criminality.
The Department of Basic Education has taken a significant step by developing a Teacher’s Guide meant to assist schools to promote rights and responsibilities among the young.
Once more, I would like to express warm words of gratitude to Primedia Broadcasting and the Independent Group of Newspapers for launching Lead SA, in August 2010, with the noble aim of encouraging individuals to stand up and take responsibility for their actions.
‘Thank you’ to the South African Interfaith Council for joining hands with us in our endeavour to build value-based schools. Through your support we can plant, on fertile soil, the moral regeneration movement within our schools.
Allow me to close by asking every learner to adopt as a mantra and a daily prayer the carefully-crafted Preamble to the Bill of Responsibilities. It says, and that’s what you must always say:
“I accept the call to responsibility that comes with the many rights and freedoms that I have been privileged to inherit from the sacrifice and suffering of those who came before me. I appreciate that the rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa are inseparable from my duties and responsibilities to others. Therefore I accept that with every right comes a set of responsibilities.”
I wish you well and thank you for your attention.
Source: Department of Education
Issued by: Department of Basic Education
23 Mar 2011
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