PREMIER'S PERSPECTIVE: Multi-pronged plan to ramp up education in EC is in full swing

Every time I visit a school I sense the hunger for education. I see it in the eyes of the children, who are so eager to be there. I once visited a 7th grade classroom with 70 pupils, but when the teacher spoke, you could have heard a pin drop.

I was reminded that, for Eastern Cape learners, and for learners like them in classrooms across our Rainbow Nation, education is about as important to their development and future success as food, water and air.

It is the route to escaping poverty and having a better life.

Education is essential to nation-building and to responding capably to global developments and challenges. It is the key to forming professional, competent, service-oriented, principled and productive citizens.

It is also a prime mover in our nation’s socio-economic growth and sustainable development. And for creating a sense of unity and in building national consciousness.

Together, we need to make sure our children get a proper education. And we need to encourage this same understanding in every classroom across the province.

As I crisscross the province, I am convinced that seven months into the 2017 school calendar and a few years after the year-on-year crisis in our education system, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our plan for improving the quality of education in the Eastern Cape is slowly but surely coming to fruition.

In a nation as diverse as ours, the ability to interact comfortably and confidently with people of all backgrounds and points of view is critical. That makes it more important than ever to provide all learners with a well-rounded, world-class education – one that includes opportunities to gain global competencies and worldwide language skills; to understand other cultures.

We want to give every child, from every background, a great start in life by making high-quality preschool available to all. We must work and are working hard to close the opportunity gap.

We're encouraging great teaching at every level and helping to shape the next generation of strong teachers and school leaders.

As the writer Alan Lakein soundly advises, “planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now”.

This is why the three-year education system transformation plan adopted in January 2016 is in full swing. It is a plan that rests on seven outcomes:

- Increasing the number of functional schools by providing a comprehensive package of support to 560 quintile 1 to 3 secondary schools;

- Rationalising and realigning 2077 small and unviable schools into “fresh start” schools that are linked to infrastructure and transport provisioning;

- Capacitating head office and districts offices into functional support systems for schools;

- Mobilising and harnessing the power of civil society to invest or provide support to the education transformation project;

- Increasing the supply of appropriately trained educators through teacher development programmes focusing on demand-driven teacher qualifications;

- Securing resources to address inefficiencies in the system with an objective of aligning allocation with national norms and standards; and

- Building a momentum that will improve audit outcomes by eliminating material findings relating to pre-determined objectives and compliance with laws and regulations.

Through this plan we are recognising that in the 19th century, the goal was universal primary school for our children.

In the 20th century, it was universal secondary school.

And in the 21st century – the digital age – it means universal post-tertiary education.

Life in the 21st century does not just mean navigating the digital age. It also means adapting to the most hyper-connected, interdependent world we have ever seen.

Today, a nation’s prosperity depends on its people's ability to thrive in the global marketplace.

This is true for the Eastern Cape and our nation as a whole.

The provincial government is supporting districts, municipalities and local communities in the courageous work of raising standards and helping learners to meet them.

Right now, far too many companies struggle to find employees with the right skills. We need to close these skill gaps and reach our full productive potential. We must challenge ourselves to do a far better job of filling high-wage, high-skill jobs.

That's why our provincial Department of Education is working hard to implement the education transformation plan. We need to give our children the kind of well-rounded education that helps them to develop an openness to the world and to appreciate the rich experiences and possibilities that exist among other cultures. Nobody is and should be too busy to raise a child for a successful future.

  • Phumulo Masualle is premier of the Eastern Cape. Follow him on Twitter on EC_Premier