Speech at the 2012 South African Schools Choral Eisteddfod by Mrs Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, Randburg
5 Jul 2012
MECs and Heads of Department
Representatives of Arts and Culture
Representatives of teacher unions
Parents and members of SGBs
Teachers and learners
Ladies and gentlemen.
Indeed it is great to be here after last year's fascinating showpiece. We were so fired-up at the end of the 2011 Eisteddfod. Many of us even forgot about the cold weather. So warmed were we by the radiating talent and potential of young South African learners.
With the musical prowess available this year, we have no doubt the 2012 South African Schools Choral Eisteddfod will not disappoint. True to the commitment of our schools and educators, this year’s contest will raise the bar even higher.
I'm humbled by your presence and the daring spirit that drove you to be here. You made this a success. I've always said occasions of this nature resemble the conventional pattern of a skilled dancer and the sweet tune to which her body would twitch and turn, rhythmically, without losing step.
On the wings of the convivial climate you have created through your presence, the youthful and promising voices of our choristers will rise up above the skies. Such is the power that is wielded by your joyful cheers and painless screams. So to speak, your participation brings this festival of song full circle.
We thank you once again for giving your time to education. This means more for us who love our country and children. It is good to know that there are still in our universe a host of women and men who lack no conviction, but are ever willing to help us raise the standard of education for all our children in this instance, through the domain of choral music. Working together we can do more for our children and for generations to come.
The 2011 national championships were followed by lively debates among us on how best to elevate the Eisteddfod to even greater heights. Some, like our colleagues in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education, were going to the extent of even advocating a revisit of the name and brand we should be attaching to this vital cultural expression.
They were driven by the same passion which drives the very best of our teachers to give away their afternoons and spare time to be with their children learning and committing to memory these songs that we are blessed with today. And therefore we must thank all our educators for their selfless efforts and love for their country and fellow-humans.
I must say to you today, as a true South African teacher, by blood and soul, this passion is the same as the fire that drives many of us to give of ourselves to the education of our children. Such love, for children, for education, for learning, for development and for a country for which we fought so hard over long and bitter years, would not allow us to derail education with any measure of impunity.
The 2012 Choral Eisteddfod is a product of hard work and persistence. Those of us who've been here much longer would recall how back in our days our teachers would make us swallow gallons of cod liver oil if we made mistakes during practice and could not get our 'd-r-m-f-s' right. It would be remiss were we to forget to give a warm cheer of applause to all choristers.
Our learners in all provinces did us proud. And I must repeat, we are all winners in this. Our lesson from this exercise of national importance is that by working together, like a conductor and a choir, we can do more to improve our lives.
Music, like all other forms of cultural expression, is an important weapon of education. So much is invested in this exercise precisely because it advances the holistic development of the young, preparing them for constructive lives fulfilling to themselves, their country and their people.
Today I have experienced what psychologists would have called 'an approach-approach conflict'. I had to make a choice between two enticing events, the first being coming here to the Eisteddfod.
The second was to attend the National Social Cohesion Summit which started yesterday with the sole purpose of reinforcing efforts of building a united, non-racial, non-sexist, caring, loving and value-based democratic South Africa.
I think I have successfully synthesised the two luring options by being here. Seen in a broader scheme of things, the Choral Eisteddfod is aimed at nation-building and fostering unity. It is a concrete image of the new 'South-Africannes'. This you would have perceived in the fusion of languages in the songs.
I’ve been reminded by our officials that many schools that participate in SASCE have fared very well in the 2011 matric exams. We can and must do more to improve on these results, in terms of quality as well as quantity. We remain committed to improving the quality of education. That's why we deeply regret what happened in Limpopo regarding delivery of textbooks.
We are very grateful to our partners in education for their contribution to the development of human resources in our country and continent. Africa has huge potential for growth and prosperity with the right investment of resources, collaboration and mutual partnerships.
Thank you to United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) with whom we hosted camps for farm schools to promote their participation in the Choral Eisteddfod. This helped us in providing learners with more social skills in different spheres of life, through music. Through this programme with UNICEF, we were able to orientate farm school conductors on the 2012 prescribed music and to enhance their artistic appreciation of that music.
This year's theme is very apt: "Celebrate Centenary Through Song".
As we listen to the beauty of music and the endless possibilities opened by the piercing voices of the choristers, we are reminded to observe the treasures collected over 100 Years of Selfless Struggle by many of our people seeking to build for us and our children a new, loving and caring South African society. Among them were great men and women of song.
Of the many, today we must also remember Enoch Sontonga who was a choirmaster and a teacher at Lovedale, in the Eastern Cape. It was he who wrote the first verse and chorus of our national anthem in 1897 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica'.
South African composers, including SBP Mnomiya, DC Marivate, RT Caluza, whose compositions have been prescribed for performance by choirs at this year's Eisteddfod, are examples of how one can use education, and talent, to make a contribution to society.
It is against this background that we appeal to all our teachers and all our people to help us turn many of our young people into prolific composers and musicians. This should be our contribution to the Centenary Celebrations of the oldest liberation movement on the continent the ANC.
I would like to make an appeal to the learners participating at the 2012 Eisteddfod to follow on the footsteps of our world-renowned artists and cultural workers.
It is you who can and must portray our country with accuracy and in a dignified manner befitting a nation with such a rich history and heritage. The spaces we leave unoccupied tend to be closed by those bent on insulting our heroes and our people.
Congratulations to all learners and schools that have been selected to perform at the 2012 National Championships. For the splendid work that went into hosting this event, I wish to thank the National Coordinating Committee, comprising national and provincial officials, representatives from teacher unions and other organisations.
Many thanks to our partners, among others: UNICEF, Via Afrika, the National Choral Music Achievement Awards, and LoveLife.
Our gratitude also goes to the provincial education leadership, school management teams, school governing bodies, and more importantly, to the teachers, parents and learners for their selfless contribution to the success of this event.
On 18 July, let us use our voices to join South Africa and the rest of the world in singing Happy Birthday to former President Nelson Mandela who turns 94 this year. We call upon all schools to support this initiative Take Action, Inspire Change, Make Every Day a Mandela Day.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Basic Education
5 Jul 2012
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