Media Release
Minister of Education Donald Grant
Western Cape

13 June, 2011

EQUIP event - Mount Nelson Hotel

Statement by Minister Donald Grant, Minister of Education, Western Cape

Programme Manager, Professor Brian O’Connell,
Ms Makano Morojele and other NBI Directors and Advisory Board Members, Equip Board Members, facilitators and service providers,
Mrs P Vinjevold,
Mr Brian Schreuder,
Principals of the participating schools,
WCED District and Head Office Staff

Thank you for the kind invitation to be part of this event tonight and thank you to the earlier presenters for the excellence of their inputs. You have no idea how daunting it is to be the 5th of 5 speakers on a list of truly gifted, passionate and committed presenters. It is daunting in two ways.

Firstly, by the time you reach speaker number 5 even the most interested of audiences is slightly jaded and in sporting terms is looking forward to the final whistle.

Secondly, there is a very good chance that the preceding 4 speakers will have exhausted the topic and that there is little more of value to be added.

Nonetheless, let me try.

I want to start by acknowledging the time, energy, dedication, money and other resources that have gone into the EQUIP initiative. Collectively it has been yet another example of the recognition of the fundamental importance of healthy public schooling to the future well being of this country. On a daily basis I remind myself of this by referring to three very different indicators from very different publications of the importance of this public school system. These are:

  • OECD study – for every year the average schooling level of the population is raised, there is a corresponding increase of at least 3.7% in economic growth

  • The Flat World and Education – increasingly states [in the USA] predict the number of prison beds they will need in a decade based on 3rd grade reading scores

  • Low Quality Education as a Poverty Trap – the individual children’s socio-economic background matter less for their performance than the school they attend

All of us can be under no illusion as to the importance of the work in which we are engaged.

In this Province the WCED is the state department of the Government of the Western Cape charged with the responsibility to deliver education in a number of forms and at a number of levels – increasingly with a focus on schooling. In this capacity it has to plan for a significant range of responsibilities and challenges and to allocate resources to meet these.

A key role – and government remains the only agent able to perform this role – is the establishment of a legislative and policy framework to achieve quality, fairness and improvement. Legislation provides for the WCED to deliver schooling and even to regulate independent schooling.

In all of this there is a clear – but too often forgotten – constitutional imperative that in all matters to do with the child the standard that applies is the best interest of the child. It is a moot point as to whether this imperative has always been given the attention it requires.

For instance, the WCED is also in law the employer of state teachers.

However, it would seem to me to be inappropriate if these employer responsibilities - as much as they are to be respected and properly exercised – were allowed to take precedence over the best interests of the young people in our schools.

The Western Cape Government is acutely aware that at present and into the immediate future it is unlikely to be able to meet all of its responsibilities on its own. There are times now – and there will be more times – when assistance is essential. This assistance is sometimes resource driven and sometimes driven by the availability outside government of specialized skills and knowledge. It is indeed a wise government which knows when it should be rowing and when it should simply be steering while others do the rowing!

It is no secret that I was unhappy about the gradual but steady decline in the outcomes of public schooling in the Western Cape over a number of years. I have said so publicly and often.

There were many reasons for this steady decline – some of them faults on the side of government. One of the more important of these was the fact that the public schooling system for which I assumed responsibility 2 years ago had drifted into a state of being co-managed at various levels. At one level, the educator unions had been allowed significant influence over decisions. Professor Brian O’Connell alluded to this earlier in his speech. At another level, outside agencies were often determining school programmes, taking teachers out of school and blurring lines of accountability.

This situation was clearly not in the overall best interests of the approximately one million young people attending public schools in the Western Cape.

However, equally clearly there were steps which needed to be taken by the WCED to provide the necessary direction. A significant start has, I believe, been made in this area.

Earlier this evening the SG, Penny Vinjevold, described the vision of and strategic plan for the creation of access to quality schooling for all the children of this Province. I do not intend to repeat what she has so clearly set before us.

However, it has not stopped with a mere plan – as important as this is to any progress.

We have also updated our legislative framework for the first time since 1997 and have included new [and some would say controversial] provisions for accountability and the enhancement of standards.

We understand perfectly well that you can no more legislate for quality than you can legislate for good discipline in our schools. Both of these require much more. So we have re-aligned our budget, developed new business plans and even refined the structures of the WCED to ensure better service to schools and clearer objectives.

For instance, by working closely with the private sector we have developed ways of driving down the costs of new infrastructure as well as reducing significantly the time of bringing new schools on stream.

Private and private sector funding has been accessed to build and help steer through their initial years two new schools – both serving very low income communities. The 40 million rand primary school in Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay which will open its doors in January 2012 is being built entirely with private funding although it will be a public school staffed and managed by the WCED.

Initiatives with the SGBs of other public schools are increasing access for the poor to quality schooling significantly through innovative infrastructure developments.

When taking up this office, I committed myself to a full exploration of the possibility of expanding the IT reach of our system in order to ensure enhanced curriculum delivery as well as better communication and administrative capacity.

Working in partnership with the private sector in an initiative funded partly by them we are in the process of conducting a WAN audit across the province to determine exactly what is currently in place – fibre-optic cable, landlines, etc. Once this audit is completed [and we have already covered more than 1000 schools] we will make use of offers of co-operation from the largest electronic communications group in the country to construct and implement the necessary electronic platform.

You will be aware that in this regard Mark Shuttleworth will make available considerable bandwidth to Western Cape schools.

In previous years the involvement of the private sector and NGOs with schools in the Western Cape has often taken place on what can only be described as an ad hoc basis – sometimes arranged at the local level with schools and without the knowledge of the relevant District or Head Office staff.

Not surprisingly, there has therefore been no clear direction and schools have found themselves having to accommodate apparently conflicting mandates. The extent and reach of this involvement was seriously underestimated.

For this reason, I have taken steps to refine the mission and operation of the Western Cape Education Foundation so that it can be used, where necessary, to align private sector and NGO involvement in schooling with the strategic needs of the WCED. To this end, some changes have been effected to the Articles of Association and the membership of the Board has been increased by the addition of a number of experienced private sector leaders.

The Foundation also appointed – after an extensive search and exhaustive interviews - Mr Peter Golding as CEO. His experience of the private sector as well as his enthusiastic commitment to enhancing the quality of public schooling in this Province can only be of benefit to us all.

Under his guidance, the WCEF will expand its capacity to attract private sector funding for identified projects in line with the vision of the WCED. The intention is that the WCEF will increasingly be the vehicle through which partnerships with the private sector will be managed.

In the best interests of the children of this Province we have a responsibility to ensure that we deliver to the best of our ability, within an effective strategic framework provided by the WCED and using the full extent of the resources available to us, including those of the business sector.

I thank you.

For enquiries, contact Bronagh Casey:  072 724 1422 or

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