Modern, Growing, Successful Province

Matric Awards Ceremony

Keynote address by the Premier of the Northern Cape Province, Mrs Hazel Jenkins, at the matric awards ceremony held at the Christian Revival Church on 06 January 2011


Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen
Honoured Guests
MEC Grizelda Cjiekella
Acting HOD: Mr Tshepo Pharasi
Officials of the Department of Education
Parents and Guardians
Stakeholders in Education
Students Formations and the Matriculants of 2010

It is with a sense of great pleasure and humility that I, as Premier of this vast and beautiful Province, stand before you today to reminisce about 2010 which was one of the most amazing years in the history of our beloved motherland.

Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor; that a son of a mine worker can become the head of a mine; that a child of a farm worker can become the president of a nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another”.

As the matriculants of 2010 you have been very fortunate and privileged to have been nurtured in a province that harbours success, invests in a holistic approach, embraces diversity and hones creativity. You all entered the gates of your schools as individuals. Today you are one people - brothers and sisters - and we genuinely expect that you will continue to make our Province proud.

Honoured matriculants, today we will be celebrating, with you, a momentous period in your schooling career. Not only do you bid farewell to 12 long and oftentimes difficult years of study, you also bid farewell to your respective schools which, most probably, has been more than a place of learning.

Today you collectively bid farewell to teachers and mentors who have taught you more than the National Syllabus. You have learnt about Life, Love, Camaraderie and Friendship. These values are critical armaments in aiding human endeavor and will certainly carry you through your later life as an adult, as a mother or a father, and as a patriotic citizen of our great country.

I am confident that with the quality of teaching, mentoring and influence imparted to you through your schooling years, all of you are more likely to become leaders in society. And with that you will have the opportunity to offer positive influence to many people for the greater good of society and our country at large.

With the talent patently evident in this hall I am sure that some of you will create significant companies, while others will teach generations of new citizens. I am also hopeful that, within your group, there are future leaders who will become world-famous academics, poets and scientists. Already amongst you we have individuals who have performed on the global stage.

Esteemed matriculants, make no mistake, you are indeed a rare kind, for you represent the future intellectual elite of our Nation. Today is an important day in your journey as you mark the end of this stage in your life and now move boldly to the next, full of hope and expectation, knowing that the education system has provided you with the requisite skills and mindsets needed to embrace an unknown future. But there is another day that will, more than any other, determine whether the full extent of your impact and influence is realized.

It was William Barclay who said: ''There are two great days in a person's life – the day we are born and the day we discover why''.

Now some of you, the fortunate few, may already have experienced that day, but for most it still lies ahead. The reality is that it will almost certainly arrive in the most unexpected of ways.

As a word of encouragement and on a very personal level, this experience came to me in the most unsuspecting manner possible when, on one hot and sultry Sunday afternoon, soon after the 2009 Elections, while relaxing on my ‘stoep’ at my home in De Aar, the President of the country, Mr Jacob Zuma, informed me of my deployment as Premier of the Northern Cape. And yet it is that very day that took me from the streets of Cape Town as a student activist, the classrooms of Mitchells Plain and De Aar as a teacher, the corridors of Pixley Ka Seme District Municipality as both Speaker and Executive Mayor to the City of Kimberley, our provincial capital, to provide hope and give meaning to the lives of our people.

In all modesty and frankness I might not have realized then the full extent of that day's importance, but over time that day has proved to be the turning point in discovering my purpose. I am now energized and guided by understanding my role, together with the Honourable Members of the Northern Cape Executive Council, in being part of building people's lives that will unlock the potential of the current and next generation.

So my simple encouragement this morning is for you to seek out that day for yourself wholeheartedly. For once we embrace the pursuit of purpose we enter into what one could call the ''Adventure of Living''.

It was Os Guinness who described such people as Entrepreneurs of life – ''People who use their talents and resources to be fruitful and add value to the world, quite literally making the invisible visible, the future present, the impossible an achievement, the desired an experience, and the dream a fulfillment”.

Esteemed matriculants of the Northern Cape: as you lead your life beyond this celebration, filled with the great possibilities of hope and imagination, the power of belief and the conviction borne from the lessons of life and its teachings, may I politely and respectfully ask: What will your legacy be? What will your purpose be?

In the years to come, let the bells of this province and our country ring out loudly as they proclaim your adventures. Our province and indeed our country needs to hear them ringing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the results of 2010 are an indication of the measure of effectiveness of our education system and the determination of its administrators and the teaching fraternity to build an efficient and responsive administration.

Ladies and Gentlemen let me remind you where we come from as the department of Education in the province. In 2009, we experienced an overhaul drop in grade 12 pass percentage of eleven percent from 72 % in 2008 to 61 % .This represented the steepest drop in matric results in the history of our province.

The 11 % drop was large attributed to the learners poor performance in seven subjects. These subjects were Physical Science, Mathematics, Life Sciences, Agricultural Science, Accounting, Economics and CAT. The analysis further indicated that 58 High Schools in the Province achieved a grade 12 pass percentage below the national norm of 60 % overhaul pass.

Subsequent to that, the department developed an intervention strategy that was aimed at focusing all the resources on rendering support and guidance to teachers and learners in all focus subjects. This support focused on learner support, teacher support and the provision of quality learning and teaching support materials.

The objectives of the strategy was also to Achieve an overhaul National Senior Certificate pass percentage of 70 % in 2010 grade 12 examinations.

This focused and strategic intervention led to the department regaining lost ground. The 11 % overall progress that has been registered is quite remarkable and highly encouraging for the Department and the Provincial government alike. That this was achieved in a space of 12 months is praiseworthy indeed. This improvement takes our overall pass rate to 72.34 %, which is a good result if you reflect on the past five years.

In 2007 we achieved 70.3 %; in 2008 we achieved 72.7 %; in 2009 we achieved 61.3 %. For me as the Premier of this Province, this can only mean one thing and that is: we can, if we pool together our energies for the common good, attain that which is considered unattainable.

On this note I extend my heartfelt appreciation to MEC Cjiekella for her commitment and decisive leadership that she has provided to the Department of Education. Equally, I extend my sincere appreciation to the Acting HOD, Mr Tshepo Pharasi, for steering the ship during a difficult and uncertain period.

The stabilization of this department in particular, has always been our priority and with that stability in sight, we are starting to realize good outcomes. I therefore commit that my Executive Council will do everything in its power to continue to support the department in its endeavor to reclaim its rightful place in the country. But we will as an Executive, further provide you, MEC, and your HOD with the latitude to deal with and overcome whatever obstacle that could stand in the way of your department doing better.

I have no doubt in my mind that the combination of your skills and knowledge and your overwhelming commitment to the people of our province and country has sparked in you the desire to do good.
The Department of Education further went through a very difficult financial period with a severe over-expenditure of R175 million in 2008/2009 and a projected R165 million at the start of 2009/2010 financial year. The department further experienced unpaid debts amounting to R65 million from 2008/2009 financial year carried over to 2009/2010.

On the basis of this scenario, the department under the stewardship and decisive leadership of MEC Cjiekella and Acting HOD had to put in place cost containment measures to off-set projected and real over- expenditure. These cost-containment measures saw the department reducing their over-expenditure significantly and starting on a sound financial footing which allowed them to focus on their core business.

This achievement and the attainment of a qualified audit opinion after three consecutive disclaimers is a perfect present to the people of the Northern Cape. It is for this reason that the Department of Education needs to be applauded for their sterling performance and effective turn around strategy.

Allow me, Programme Director, to also convey my appreciation to all our parents and guardians for heeding the call by our President to take an active interest in the education of our children.

Parents, you have indeed demonstrated your unwavering commitment to your children collectively, together with the desire to see them succeed. With your help, encouragement and resolute determination, they have done you proud. Well done!

I also extend my gratitude to the many men and women, namely our teachers, for a job well done. Teachers are central in the realization of our dream of providing education for all. We need to start affording teachers the respect and dignity that they deserve. We successfully navigated a very difficult labour dispute in our own unique way, yet you were still able to return to your work places and do what we all expected from the disciplined cadres of the education sector.

Programme Director; allow me to also thank the many officials of the Department of Education for doing a little more than is expected for our schools, learners and communities. It is through your support to schools and the realization that our Province needed everybody's contribution that we were able to attain these results. May I further remind you of the pledge you made when we launched the PQLTC (Provincial Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign) and may you continue to unselfishly serve our schools and communities.

Education, having been proclaimed priority number one under the custodianship of the Governing Party, the African National Congress, is the single most important weapon that we can give to every child to allow them to survive and avoid a life of poverty. Education can unlock the potential of every child and young person and help them make the most of their talents for the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in line with Government's commitment to provide education for all, we as a Province would like to cultivate a culture where education becomes our passion. Our province and indeed our country is full of talent. I believe each young person has talent and potential, each has some gift to develop and each has something to give for the good of the community.

I am therefore certain that the Northern Cape and South Africa our matriculants strive for, is the one with no gap on ambition, no ceiling on hope, no limit to where your potential will take you or how far you can rise, and a South Africa where the talents of each of us can contribute to the well being and prosperity of all.

The idea of excellence in education is not just a noble ideal; it is incumbent on each of us to respect the search for knowledge, the pursuit of wisdom and the fulfillment of human potential. It is also, as everybody knows an economic imperative.

In the past those countries who had the raw materials, the coal or oil or the commodities, or the infrastructure and the ports, were the ones that probably had the most competitive advantage.

Today what matters is who has the skills, the ideas, the insights and the creativity. And the countries that I believe will succeed in the future are those that will do more than just unlock some of the talents of young people - the countries that will succeed will be those that strive to unlock all the talents of all their people.

Our ambition must be nothing less than to be world class in education and to move to the top of the global education league, and it is time to say not just that we will aim high but that we can no longer tolerate failure, that it will no longer be acceptable for any child to fall behind, no longer acceptable for any school to fail its pupils, no longer acceptable for young people to drop out of education without good qualifications; without us acting collectively.

So my argument today, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that it is time for the Province and indeed the country to leave behind, once and for all, this culture of pessimism and acceptance of low aspirations that holds us back. Poverty of aspiration is as damaging as poverty of opportunity and it is time to replace a culture of low expectations for too many with a culture of high standards for all.

The Northern Cape Provincial Government is emphasizing the critical role of ECD to support toddlers and young children to give them a good foundation that can be of good in their latter years of schooling.

We are also elevating the critical role that ABET plays particularly in this era of the skills age to empower our people to be able to read and write, but also to be able to use education as a form of survival. As government we are saying attention should be paid to Foundation, Intermediate and Senior phases, so that the entire system is monitored and supported on a consistent basis.

Ladies and Gentlemen, these awards and many similar ones must therefore be seen in the context of promoting excellence in performance for all learners and should serve as encouragement for those who follow.

Allow me, Programme Director, to pay tribute to a special group of candidates who wrote the 2010 matric examination and who, through their various contributions, gave practical expression to the promotion of excellence through ceremonies like these, and in the process became outstanding patriots of our nation, as well as excellent ambassadors of both our province and country:

1. Crystal M Bezuidenhoudt, from Concordia High, who was declared the best learner in Accounting at the 2010 Western Cape SAICA camp.

2. Tersia C Oppel, from Steinkopf High, who was declared second best learner in Accounting at the Western Cape SAICA camp.

This, Programme Director, is clearly what our curriculum seeks to nurture in our youth; values of social justice, caring and patriotic individuals who are not driven by motives of greed and selfishness.

The resilience and determination of our learners is characterized by the 11 % upward movement achieved for 2010. We must use this achievement to build on our resolve to create a model education system.

We must continue as parents to play our critical role and leave nothing to chance. We must continue to ensure that our children are in school every day, on time and that they are learning and being taught.

We are also calling upon educators to continue their good work and make sure we work together to rid the system of a small group of lazy individuals who tarnish the image of the many good teachers that we have.

As Government and as the Department, we will continue to provide support to schools and teachers with every available resource at our disposal to enable them to discharge their responsibilities effectively.

We commit ourselves to improving the quality of learning and teaching in the most rural communities of our province through adequate provisioning, improved and sustained teacher development as well as learner support programmes.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we continue to be inspired by the good performance of many schools that have improved their status from being under-performing to above 60 %, some of which have operated under very difficult conditions.

We would also like to congratulate those schools that continue to maintain good performance consistently and we are calling on them to start sharing their wisdom, because they have a responsibility to strengthen their neighbours by being neighbourly in true ubuntu tradition.

We are certainly hoping that many of our schools will work hard to be centers of excellence in education, because:

• It is only through excellence in education that we can improve the lives of our people.

• It is only through excellence in education that we can increase the levels of HIV/AIDS awareness among our people.

• It is only through excellence in education that we can succeed in our bids for the SALT and SKA projects and become a leader in world science and astronomy.

• And it certainly is only through education that we stamp out the abuse of women and children as well as eradicate racism and corruption and lessen the levels of unemployment amongst our people.

May I also, Programme Director, thank all the social partners who have consistently stood side by side with us. People who have heeded the call of government when we invited them to come to the party and make it possible for many of our children, especially the companies that continue through their contributions to provide hope to our young and dynamic children.

In particular, Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to extend my sincere gratitude to FNB for their continued commitment towards the awards and Maskew Miller for their consistent good will.

Through these private/public partnerships we will ensure that no deserving young person, from whatever background, is denied the opportunity to develop his/her potential.

I am pleased that, through our support, we are beginning to see previously disadvantaged learners gradually making inroads in the ranks of high performers.

To those of our learners who did not make it, we urge you to rise above this temporary setback and work your way back to success. Many a great people in history did not succeed in their first attempt, but after persevering and working harder, they came up with some of the greatest inventions in modern life.

You will be provided with an opportunity to improve your performance through the supplementary examinations that will start officially on 27 February 2011. Our appeal to all of you is to take advantage of this opportunity, use your peers and teachers to assist you, focus on the areas of work where you did not do well and remain focused.

Remember, failure is not fatal; failure is not permanent, it’s just a temporary setback.

To those who have succeeded, we are hoping that you will take advantage of all the financial assistance we are providing as government and the private sector to stretch your horizon. South Africa is alive with possibilities. The Premier's Bursary Fund has over years provided much needed assistance to scores of learners. For the current financial year, we have put up more than 5 million rands to assist needy and deserving students.

Make sure that you make use of all financial resources in the province and if needs be, you are welcome to approach the Department of Education.

May I, in conclusion, wish everyone present, your families and relatives, all our partners in the broader education family; good health, peace, prosperity and happiness in 2011.

Thank you Baie Dankie Ke A Leboga

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