Address at sod-turning ceremony for Mandela Park Primary School, donated by Arcelormittal by Mrs Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, Mandela Park Primary School, Mthatha
9 Sep 2011Programme Director
Your Majesty, King of Abathembu, Aah! Zwelibanzi
Chief Mandla Mandela and the Traditional Leadership
MEC for Education, Mr Mandla Makupula
Honourable Executive Mayors and Councillors
CEO of Arcelormittal, Ms Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita
Principals, teachers, parents, learners and officials
Ladies and gentlemen
I greet you all.
I’m happy to witness the sod-turning ceremony marking the commencement of construction of the Mandela Park Primary School here in Mthatha, in the land of our nation’s icon, uTata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
For several reasons, this patriotic project made possible by Arcelormittal will go a long way in transforming the Eastern Cape landscape in the interest of our children and people living in these parts of the country.
In the past, it was a rarity to have the buzz of construction activity in areas where our people were dumped and left to perish in the scorching sun, with very little to protect them from hunger, illiteracy, disease and underdevelopment.
That historical inequity makes the Arcelormittal gesture quite remarkable for us as government and your elected representatives charged with the duty to improve our people’s quality of life.
This sod-turning fulfils a promise made when we launched the partnership between our department and the socially-responsible Arcelormittal. We said our mutual partnership will culminate in the construction of ten new schools in all the nine provinces of democratic South Africa.
It is ten because a careful analysis showed a need seriously to focus on the Eastern Cape. It was thus decided the province will receive two schools, instead of one. This commitment is to the value of R250 million for which we are thankful to Arcelormittal South Africa and its Foundation.
I can therefore, with confidence, urge all English teachers here to tell our learners the meaning of the idiom which says “a promise made is a promise kept”. Arcelormittal proved this wisdom by word and deed.
You would know that we’ve taken steps to improve education in the Eastern Cape. We’ve had to maximise our efforts by enacting Section 100 (b) of the Constitution which made it possible for national office to intervene in the province better to ensure efficient provision of education as a public service.
It is in the interest of all of us to protect and promote the children’s constitutional right to education.
Clearly, Arcelormittal’s investment in two schools for the Eastern Cape contributes greatly to our broad goal of improving the quality of basic education.
Our government has committed to improving the quality of education through, among other things, the delivery of adequate infrastructure to all schools. This has been a mammoth task since we came to power in 1994. As you know, there were many disparities created by the past system.
But in spite of that, we have increased the number of public schools and have started replacing dilapidated structures and mud-schools as well as providing water and electricity.
Since 1996, over 2 233 new schools have been constructed, 73 214 additional classrooms have been provided, 6 297 schools have been provided with water and 2 242 with sanitation and 11 574 with electricity.
There’s no debate our country needs more investment in school infrastructure both to satisfy the right to basic education and to improve the quality of learning and learning outcomes.
Research points to a clear correlation between learner achievement and the richness of teaching and learning materials and resources.
This is why we have prioritised workbooks for learners, and have taken the task of ensuring there’s at least a chair and a desk for every learner, and a textbook for each learner in each subject.
Given the backlogs and challenges confronting us, it is clear that government cannot do it alone.
We believe traditional leadership, civil society and the private sector are critical to the success of our quest to provide resources to all our schools.
An investment in education is an investment in the future, and this is something clearly understood by companies like Arcelormittal. The ten schools, to the tune of R250 million, demonstrate the commitment of the business community to education and the future of South Africa.
The first school constructed through this programme was Meetse-A-Bopelo Primary School in Mamelodi, Gauteng.
It was built between May 2009 and June 2010, and is currently operational.
I am told that a delegation from Mandela Park visited Meetse-A-Bopelo earlier this year, and that they are very happy with what they saw there.
I’ve noted with appreciation that construction plans for Mandela Park Primary School have been approved and a contractor has already been appointed to commence with construction and we’re looking at completion in July next year.
We’re also glad that as part of this programme with Arcelormittal, the new school will satisfy education guidelines for infrastructure, including, proper classrooms, an administration block, a library, a laboratory, ablution facilities, water, electricity, fencing and furniture.
I’ve been privileged to see the architectural plan. I must say it is a state-of-the-art design befitting a school in the province of Tata Madiba who dearly values education.
Quality education depends on the enthusiasm of learners and the dedication of educators.
I sincerely hope this new facility will challenge learners, educators and parents to show renewed commitment to education for a better life for all.
Before I close, let me extend a special word of gratitude to Arcelormittal for its investment in Mthatha and for its willingness to help us build a truly united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.
Final examinations are around the corner, with only 44 Days to go. And so, I urge all to do their very best to ensure all children are ready.
We want to see all learners and teachers in the classroom learning and teaching at least seven hours a day.
You’d know that one of the lessons from the Annual National Assessments we conducted in February 2011 is that we must pay special attention to the foundation phase just as we do with regard to Grade 12.
Therefore, seriousness should apply to all grades. What we do in Grade 1 determines the quality of learner we produce in Grade 12.
School managers, parents and communities must all support our efforts. Education is a societal issue.
This being Heritage Month and we’re celebrating heroes and heroines of the struggle, allow me to leave you with a message from Dr Kwame Nkrumah, a trained teacher, who, like Tata Mandela, stood for the liberation of Africa.
He said in 1957 when Ghana gained independence: “You are to stand firm behind us so that we can prove to the world that when the African is given a chance he can show the world that he is somebody! We have awakened. We will not sleep anymore.”
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Basic Education
9 Sep 2011
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