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Media Release

20 September, 2007

Prayer for Education

Statement by Cameron Dugmore, MEC for Education in the Western Cape

As MEC for Education and the person charged with ensuring that all our children receive the quality education needed to lead fulfilling and productive lives, I wish to harness all of the positive energies prevalent in our communities and focus this to benefit our children as they enter a period of examinations at the end of the year.

Earlier this year a group of teachers arranged a prayer for education at St. Cyprians Church in Retreat to mark the opening of the 2007 academic year. Many teachers and learners from the Southern Suburbs attended the service and from that I was inspired by the sense of unity and common purpose evident at that event.

I then suggested to our teachers that they initiate a similar prayer in support of our matrics towards the end of the year. I believe that a provincial wide initiative across all our faith communities will assist in focussing our spiritual energy on the education of our children in this province.

We need to place education at the heart of all our endeavours. It is not just about our matrics of 2007 but indeed for all those involved in teaching and learning - learners, teachers and parents.

The circumstances and environment under which our learners receive their education are often more challenging than we think. The Education Department needs partners to ensure that we grant our learners the best opportunities possible, which would enable them to make a success of their schooling.

It is within this context that I have called on all religious leaders across all faiths to dedicate a special prayer and message of hope and support for all our teachers, learners and parents as they prepare for the end-year examinations.

I am happy to announce that during a Weekend of Prayer for Education - from Friday 28 to Sunday 30 September 2007 - different religious institutions, within their normal hours of worship, have agreed to focus on the need for support for all of our children.

On Friday 28 September from 11h30 - 12h30, the St. George's Cathedral will host an inter-faith service, with all religious groups present. In addition, WCED inter-faith events at various venues in Khayelitsha, Retreat, Worcester and the Southern Cape have also been arranged. This will take place on Sunday afternoon, 30 September 2007.

The prayer dedication would focus on instilling peace and calm amongst our young people during this often-stressful time, especially our matriculants. Parents and family members need to support and encourage learners as they busy themselves with study and revision of work.

This message of hope and support should also find resonance with communities, as they to observe and experience the seriousness with which learners undertake their tasks. This would serve to place the spotlight on our young people and motivate them to do their best.

The education endeavour is accompanied by many unwarranted challenges, such as the safety of learners, vandalism, drug abuse, incidents of sexual and physical abuse, etc.

Every effort is being made by government to combat these social ills. We know however that there is a direct relationship between the success of our learners and a supportive home environment.

Thus we pray that our learners be blessed with a safe environment and that their homes and family lives are attuned to them making every success of their opportunities.

I wish to express my gratitude to the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum, representing the faith communities of the province, whom I have consulted on this initiative and who have expressed their unequivocal support. It is an historic fact that over the years religious institutions have played an important role in the provision of education.

I do believe that the Education Department needs to work more closely with faith communities as partners to realise the holistic education of our children. I call for the support from every congregation/faith gathering to support this initiative, and that this Prayer for Education and for our young learners will reverberate throughout the province next weekend as we enter the period of examinations.

The key messages that we wish to bring across to our learners are the following:

Believe in yourself: You would not have been given a place on the course if you did not have the ability to do it. Therefore, if you prepare for the exams properly you should do fine, meaning that there is no need to worry excessively.

Don't try to be perfect: It's great to succeed and reach for the stars. But keep things in balance. If you think that "anything less than A+ means I've failed" then you are creating mountains of unnecessary stress for yourself. Aim to do your best but recognise that none of us can be perfect all of the time.

Take steps to overcome problems: If you find you do not understand some of your course material, getting stressed out will nit help. Instead, take action to address the problem directly by seeing your course tutor or getting help from your classmates.

Don't keep things bottled up: Confiding in someone you trust and who will be supportive is a great way of alleviating stress and worry.

Keep things in perspective: The exams might seem like the most crucial thing right now, but in the grander scheme of your whole life they are only a small part.

What can Faith-based organisations do to support our learners and schools?

  • Keep them in your prayers all the time
  • Make your buildings/ space available to learners for study and homework purposes( especially between 14h00 and 18h00 during the week which is a very vulnerable time for our learners) and over weekends
  • Arrange after-school tutoring with volunteers
  • Supply learners with some nourishment after school
  • Get involved with the infra-structure projects of the school( school libraries, caretaker cottages on school premises, school halls)
  • Establish learner-support groups from the congregation
  • Become aware of learners suffering from undue stress symptoms
  • Offer knowledgeable persons to address the learners on certain topics
  • Offer courses in Life Skills
  • Invite WCED officials to speak to congregants about parenting skills, bursary and career information
  • Encourage the youth to attend youth meetings at the organisation
  • Establish a bursary fund or support existing funds ( eg MEDT ..manenberg education and development trust..BEDT..bonteheuwel education and development trust..kef ..khayelitsha education forum)
  • Offer schools the services of a religious leader to deliver message/sermon at the normal school assemblies
  • Identify children who need help
  • Encourage members of the congregation to establish past pupils associations at their old schools or support existing associations ( especially at high schools)
  • Support the local creche/ecd centre
  • Make contact with local district office (EMDC) or WCEF (Western Cape Education Foundation) if you need assistance in getting project going

For enquiries, contact Gert Witbooi:  082 550 3938, or gwitbooi@pgwc.gov.za.

Issued by:
Gert Witbooi
Media Liaison Officer
Office of the MEC for Education
Western Cape
Tel: 021 467 2523
Fax: 021 425 5689

Visit our website: http://wced.wcape.gov.za

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