Programme Director, Mr GN Ngcobo (Education HOD);
His Majesty, King Misuzulu KaZwelithini;
Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga;
Leader of Government Business and MEC for EDTEA, Mr Siboniso Duma;
MEC for Finance, Ms Neliswa Peggy Nkonyeni;
MEC for Education in KZN, Ms Mbali Frazer;
Honourable Speaker of the KZN Legislature, Hon N Boyce;
The Mayor of eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, Cllr Mxolisi Kaunda;
The Director-General of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr. Nonhlanhla Mkhize;
Senior Government Officials;
Chairpersons of SGBs;
Principals, Teachers, and Learners;
Members of the Fourth Estate;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
INTRODUCTION: WE SALUTE THE CLASS OF 2023
Programme Director as I greet this august gathering I am reminded of the poignant words that were said by civil rights leader and activist Malcom X many decades ago, who viewed education as a weapon to pave way to brighter future, and said “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
And today it is an honour and a privilege to be called a citizen of KwaZulu-Natal. Equally, it is an honour to address you on this special occasion, where we celebrate the outstanding achievements of the KwaZulu-Natal Matric Class of 2023.
This class has made us all proud by achieving a remarkable 86.4% matric pass rate, improving on last year’s pass rate by a significant 3.4%, and clinching the second position overall nationally, ahead of Gauteng and Western Cape. This incredible achievement must also be appreciated within a context that of the 740 thousand 566 candidates that enrolled for the 2023 NSC exams in July 2023, the Province of KwaZulu-Natal provided the largest number of candidates who sat for the NSC, which was 167 thousand 247, and of this figure 136 thousand 366 achieved.
The Province also recorded 45,7% Bachelor passes with 27,7% Diploma and only 12,9 Higher Certificate passes.
I couldn’t be prouder Minister Motshekga. Our Province under the steady hand of MEC Mbali Fraser and her top management team has done the job and made all of us delighted to be the citizens of
KwaZulu-Natal. The fact that every district recorded improvement overall in pass percentage and that four Provincial districts are in the top ten of the country’s district level performances, is tremendously encouraging and a cause for celebration.
Minister when President Thabo Mbeki delivered his Business Unusual - All Hands on deck to speed up Change State of the Nation Address on 8 February 2008, he declared education as one of the key apex priorities, and directed that poor schools be resourced with monitoring of learning outcomes.
It is for this reason that today we announce that the top achiever nationally, her name is ____________ comes from one of the most poorer, rural and far flung districts of uMkhanyakude which did not only notch the highest achiever status in the province but came fourth nationally with 90%. This tells us one thing, that our education eco-system is resilient, maturing and progressive.
Programme Director our economy requires creative thinkers and problem solvers in order to grow, produce jobs of the future that will be sustainable. As such it is pleasing to note a steady improvement in the distinction passes in Agriculture Science, Mathematics and Physical Science. We are repositioning KwaZulu-Natal as a Smart Province therefore Physical Science and Mathematics will be central.
By its very nature our Province is rural and has vast land. There are opportunities and space for Agricultural Scientists because KwaZulu-Natal has identified agriculture as a key job driver that has immense potential to make a telling contribution to the KZN economy. To unlock agricultural potential, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has Land and KZN Department has conceptualised Agri-villages; Community Estates; River Valley Catalytic Models and land Reform Support as the pillars of the new Agrarian Transformation that will change the provincial agricultural and rural landscape.
We must also congratulate Ilembe District for being the district with most schools that achieved 100% pass rate. Siyabonga Mam Peggy Nkonyeni former Education MEC and District Champion. We also noted that Umzinyathi is the most improved District.
CHALLENGES FACING THE MATRIC CLASS OF 2023
Programme Director I am tempted to think that the late American memoirist, poet and civil rights activist Dr Maya Angelou had this group of learners in mind when in 1978 she said Still I Rise. She said:
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tide
Just like hopes springing high
Still I’ll rise
This group has risen through and overcame many obstacles since enrolling for Grade 1 in 2012, but most recently since they started High School in 2019.
On 11 March 2020 when the World Health Organisation declared COVID 19 to be a pandemic, this cohort was abruptly forced into a new normal, together with, according to the World Economic Forum, over 1.5 billion students across the world who were unable to attend school in person, due to lockdowns, causing lasting effects on the education of an entire generation. This group was there and survived it. Still they rose.
This cohort rose from the ashes of an unfortunate wave of disruptive week of violent looting spree in July 2021 which caused irreparable damage to the life and livelihood of some of our people, with an estimated R 20 billion cost to the economy and 150 000 jobs lost.
In April 2022 KwaZulu-Natal experienced days of heavy rain that led to deadly floods. Sadly 435 people lost their lives, with many people still missing. Several thousand homes were damaged or destroyed. Some of the learners here were directly impacted in one way or the other. But still like dust, like air this group rose.
Because if they didn’t rise Dr Angelou would have asked them:
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Minister Motshekga even as we whole country was consumed by jubilations that accompanies the start of a new academic year, just this Wednesday when we started the 2024 learning year, the Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal had to take decisive and proactive precautionary action and release learners and teachers early due to severe weather and flooding.
Minister Motshekga we are encouraged that the quality assurance body Umalusi said categorically that there were no paper leaks during the matric 2023 examinations. To underscore the point that they made and yourself Minister further stating yesterday, it is worth repeating that “The irregularities identified during the writing and marking of the examinations, were not systemic, and therefore, did not compromise the overall credibility and integrity of the November 2023 NSC examinations administered by the DBE”
However, we were disturbed by a headline report that stated that KwaZulu-Natal leads with 80% of group copying cases. This must be corrected because if we do not correct it someone might think that the 86.4% that these honest and hardworking learners attainted during the 2023 National Senior Certificate examinations was through cheating. That is not the case.
I personally visited the marking centre at Inanda Seminary on 6 December 2023 and I saw how fool proof and secured our multi-layered marking system was. Which is why it must be stated that the few, if not only 950 learner’s country wide, who were found to have cheated were picked up by our system, by our invigilators.
We must also correct the narrative that says irregularities is prevalent in public schools that are mainly attended by most of our people. That narrative is misleading.
PROGRESS IN OUR SCHOOLING SYSTEM
The improvement in the matric results and the focus of our basic education are increasingly geared towards addressing the pressing challenges of our time and preparing learners for the future world of work and industries where no one is left behind.
In this regard, Coding and Robotics, alongside Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are taking their place as the leading performance subjects for our learners. A focused curriculum on these subjects is being implemented in 26 out of the targeted 33 schools at foundation phase and at 211 schools for the Intermediate Phase or Grade 7.
Through these subjects, which are aligned to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we are preparing our learners for a future that will make the world their oyster and playground.
KwaZulu-Natal has prepared for the future by building state-of-the-art schools and by focusing on subjects that shape and sharpen minds for future needs.The province has built new schools in 2023 focussing on maritime, ICT focussed school and increasing paperless schools such as Mandla Mthethwa School of Excellence and Anton Lembede School of Innovation and Technology.
To level the playing fields, our provincial Learner Transportation Programme benefited 402 schools or 73 933 Learners in 2022/23, with 2 336 436 Learners benefitted from the National School Nutrition Programme.
The province has audited bridges required for learners to access school during the rainy season and in partnership with the Department of Transport and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure this vital infrastructure is being rolled out in KwaZulu-Natal.
We are extremely pleased to note that our province has completely eradicated mud schools, and in that regard, we have gone far in bringing dignity to the poorest of the poor.
STATE OF READINESS
We are pleased that the numbers of unplaced learners were not as high this year as in the previous academic years. The Department will provide an update of the admission process, but we were assured that the Circuit Management Centre heads had put up systems in place to attend to any eventually.
Let us also report that before the end of 2023 the Department of Education in the Province had already delivered 100 % of all Learner, Teacher Support Material in all schools in the Province.
In September 2023 the Department had advertised more than 3 000 teacher vacancies, that had arisen as a result of attrition including retirements, resignations, deaths and other reasons. The placement of successful candidates as per the recommendations of the School Governing Bodies has been released to Districts and successful incumbents, assumed duty on Wednesday 17 January 2024 when the schools reopened.
Minister you and your Director General Mr Mathanzima Mweli came down to the province to work with us when we had the challenge of National School Nutrition Programme in April last year. Since then Minister we fixed the system and no child has gone hungry. The Department of Education in the Province assured the Executive Council at our last sitting that they have put systems in place to ensure that the National School Nutrition Programme commences in earnest on Wednesday 17 January when schools open for the New Academic Year. Indeed, there have been NO reports to the contrary, the system is working 100%.
Recent storms and floods caused severe damage to school infrastructure, where 59 schools in 9 of the 12 districts were affected. The Department has put in place various measures to ensure that affected schools are provided with interim measures which includes mobile classrooms, mobile ablution facilities and dislodging of existing ablution facilities. We are happy to report that all these are in place in most schools. Obviously, we are chasing a moving target because almost on daily bases the province is hit by destructive heavy rains that just annihilate our infrastructure.
MARCHING INTO THE NEXT 30 YEARS.
As we close three decades of freedom under the stewardship of the governing African National Congress, we do so with absolute confidence that we have risen above many challenges that have faced our education system. We will enter the next 30 years of freedom assured of an education system that is resilient and responsive to the needs of future generations and the modern-day economic architecture.
We have in the past few years observed that the quality of our education system is maturing. Like any other system that administers millions of stakeholders, with one of the largest budgets in the country’s fiscus, there will be challenges.
To you my sister Matsie Angelina "Angie" Motshekga over the decade and a half since you have been Education Minister, your hand has been steady even during the turbulent times. We wish you all the best and thank you for ensuring that our country has done well in maintaining a credible public education system for all, rich, poor, black and white.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Matric Class of 2023 would not have achieved this remarkable milestone had it not been for the unsung heroes and heroines who made sure that this feat was feasible and within reach.
Today we doff our hats off to all the Parents, Teachers, Principals, District Officials, School Governing Bodies Members, Teacher Unions, Office Administration Staff and many more.
Your excellent contribution does not go unnoticed, hence sing your praises on top of our voices and these praises echo through the walls of the iconic Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre and beyond.
To our Matric Class of 2023: You are the future leaders of this country, and we have high hopes and expectations for you. As you embark on the next phase of your journey, whether it is to further your studies, employment, or entrepreneurship, we are confident that you will continue to strive for excellence, to uphold the values of integrity, respect, and social responsibility, and to contribute positively to the development and transformation of our society, just like you have demonstrated.
REGISTER TO VOTE:
The future of our democracy is in your hands now. The Independent Electoral Commission has declared February 3 and 4, 2024 as the second and final voter registration weekend ahead of the next general elections. Please go register and go out to vote during the general elections. That would be the best gift to Tata Nelson Mandela and those that he worked tirelessly with to free this country and make it what it is today.
Just like Margaret Mead said: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. And to you I say indeed you are that group.
I thank you