Teachers are the main pillars of a sound and progressive society. Truth be told, they are the ones who pass on knowledge, skills and values to the children. They prepare the young for further education and further roles in society.
My message to you is that teachers are at the epicentre of the education universe.
There's a proverb that says one who dares to teach must never cease to learn. Accordingly, this year we launched a Framework for Teacher Education and Development.
Its focus is on targeted, subject-specific teacher education and development that must improve teacher content knowledge. South Africa is striving to attract young people to teaching through, inter alia, Funza Lushaka Bursary. These bursaries increased from 5 447 in 2008 to 10 112 in 2010. We want teaching to become a profession of first choice, not a last resort.
Our teachers enjoy representation in joint policy-making forums, such as the Education Labour Relations Council, the South African Council for Educators and the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council.
We have improved conditions of service through an occupation specific dispensation. We recognise and reward teacher achievement through, among others, annual teachers' awards.
Through collective work with communities and teacher unions, progress has been made towards a free public education system. But more needs to done to open the doors of learning.
The DBE lists some of the following as great strides. They include:
the transformation of the schooling system from its apartheid past, in line with the SA Schools Act of 1996
the development of a long-term strategy - Action Plan to 2014: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025
the participation rate of children aged 4 and 5 in early childhood development has now reached 70%
Development of Annual National Assessments into a credible system that will make all accountable for achieving standards through the Kha Ri Gude Adult Mass Literacy Campaign, one of our most successful mass campaigns, we have produced 650 000 literate adults in just 2 years access to primary and secondary schooling has reached near universal enrolment; the highest being that of girls.
in 2009, South Africa had 12 313 899 learners in 27 461 public and independent schools taught by 365 447 educators. In comparison with 1999, there were 85,937 more learners in school, taught by 47,620 more teachers our school nutrition programme has offered meals to over 7 million learners in more than 20 000 schools we are on target to meet the Millennium Development Goals set for 2015.