Speech by Minister Donald Grant: Improving the quality of school infrastructure in our poorer communities in order to expand access to quality education John Ramsay High School, 17 July 2013 | Western Cape Education Department

Speech by Minister Donald Grant: Improving the quality of school infrastructure in our poorer communities in order to expand access to quality education John Ramsay High School, 17 July 2013

Dr Brand, District Director of Metro North
Officials of the WCED
Quentin Newman, Principal of John Ramsay
Francis Trout and members of the SGB
Principals and Teachers
Professor Brian O'Connell - Rector of UWC
Members of the Bishop Lavis Community
Distinguished guests
Ladies and Gentleman
All protocol observed

Good afternoon. Goeie middag. Molweni

Firstly, thank you to Arch-Deacon Terry Okkers vir die toepaslike manier, the silence and his prayers at the start of the programme today.

Secondly, I want to acknowledge all our previous speakers, singers and role players for adding much value and gravitas to our proceedings at John Ramsay this afternoon.

Thirdly, I would like to comment on how we collectively sang the National Anthem this afternoon - It was simply outstanding. To Eugene Jafta who sung earlier this afternoon - you have a bright future ahead of you.

To John Ramsay, thank you for your invitation and the opportunity to address you on this wonderful occasion.

As we are all aware, today we are celebrating the official opening of these new school facilities.

This project forms part of the WCED school infrastructure expansion plan.

This plan aims to, amongst other things; improve the quality of school infrastructure in our poorer communities in order to expand access to quality education.

Last year our Head of Department, Penny Vinjevold, approached the school management of John Ramsay with the idea to improve the school infrastructure.

Now, Ms Vinjevold, as the accounting officer in education, doesn't give away money easily.

She makes informed decisions based on what are in the best interests of the learners of this province, taking into account the management of each school, the quality of the education it delivers, and the support it receives from their community.

In the case of John Ramsay, Ms Vinjevold was confident that the new upgrades to this school would benefit education in this community - becoming a beacon of opportunity to all children in Bishop Lavis.

As is evident today, the school management of John Ramsay grabbed the chance to be part of this plan and we are certain that this initiative will contribute to an even more positive school environment.

This plan would never have been approved if it were not for the success this school has achieved in recent years, as well as, a strong school management and teaching team.

In 2008, this school was what we classify as "underperforming". An "underperforming" school is a school that has achieved less than 60% in the National Senior Certificate examinations.

Only 52.6% of the Matric class passed their NSC that year, with only 3.9% of the candidates achieving access to a bachelor degree pass.

Let me bring you forward five years to 2012.

80.4% of candidates from this school passed their NSC with 17.4% of learners achieving a bachelor's pass.

I think you can all agree that this is a remarkable turnaround!

It's not always an easy task moving from the bottom up, but your school has demonstrated that it is possible.

While these candidates rightly deserve their NSC pass because of their hard work and endless studying, I know this turnaround is also a result of a committed and dedicated educator staff and outstanding leadership by the principal and his management team.

Your contribution to education is much appreciated.

It is not easy being an educator in a community that is often plagued with gang violence and crime, but you all possess the same qualities as many of those that reside in Bishop Lavis - that of strength, endurance, determination and caring.

You are responsible for equipping the future leaders, entrepreneurs and scholars of this community with the necessary skills so they can take advantage of the opportunities that will come their way.

Your role is simply invaluable.

To Mr. Newman and his school management team - your professionalism and enthusiasm have taken this school to new heights. I am confident that we will see it grow even further and I look forward to its future success. It is clearly evident that this school is being properly administered, maintained and managed and I, and the WCED, is pleased to see this.

To the school governing body, you have a major responsibility which you exercise on behalf of this school. The hours you spend on the work of this school are a wonderful example of voluntary service which will benefit the school, its learners and the community.

You deserve all the praise and thanks you receive and I add my thanks and that of the WCED.

This school has become invaluable to the community of Bishop Lavis and the people of the Western Cape, and we hope that we can replicate the success in other schools in the surrounding areas that are currently struggling.

To the learners of John Ramsay, each and every one of you here today has been given the opportunity to learn at this school, to be taught, guided and stimulated by educators and the school management team.

You now have to decide whether you are going to take full advantage of that opportunity. To make the right choices that will affect your life in the years to come. It's not just about passing. It's also about achieving the best you can so that you can move on successfully to the next phase of your life.

But with that comes responsibility. You are responsible for completing your homework, studying hard for tests, respecting and taking advice from your educators, and leading a healthy lifestyle.

I am aware of the challenges faced within this community, such as gangsterism, teenage pregnancy and substance abuse, but believe that these are challenges that each of you can overcome.

So make the right choices, both academically and lifestyle wise - take part in school activities, play sports, join clubs. You have been given the opportunity to do so, so grab it.

I want to thank Dr. Brand and his excellent District staff who support our schools tirelessly. Your professional guidance and support are appreciated. I know that you too take pride in the achievements of John Ramsay.

But we also need the support of our parents who play a vital role in not only influencing their child's behavior but also in improving their child's education outcomes.

We want our parents to get involved in their child's education - they must encourage them to do their homework, get to know their educators, and take part in school activities and functions.

Experience has shown that the greater the family and community involvement in schools, the greater the learners' achievement and the school's success. Your support is vital and we encourage all members of the Bishop Lavis community to work together, as a team, and make this school a long-lasting success.

The WCED will continue to support you in any way we can.

I want to congratulate each and every one of you involved in the upgrading of this school as well as the planning & preparation of the celebration today. It has been a wonderful collaborative venture from all concerned. I have no doubt that under the leadership of Mr Newman - who is clearly passionate and driven in his task - and the teachers with the support of the SGB and the Bishop Lavis Community, that this school will continue to grow from strength to strength in the future with the support of the District and the WCED.

Good luck to all of you and thank you all.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Thank you.