PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa says teachers carry a great responsibility in a fast changing world, and the country looks to them to pursue Education for Sustainable Development so that learners are empowered with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to take informed decisions in advancing environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society.
Ramaphosa was speaking at the 21st Reimagined National Teachers Award Ceremony at Emperors Palace Conference Centre in Ekurhuleni on Wednesday, where he highlighted some of the problems facing the country’s education landscape.
“As a nation, our most pressing challenge right now is youth unemployment. Some of the young work-seekers are not well educated and do not possess sufficient skills and previous work experience demanded by employers in the labour market,” said Ramaphosa.
“That places a great responsibility on teachers and education officials, and indeed on all of us, to ensure that our schools, colleges, universities and other training institutions are producing the skills and capabilities that our country needs.”
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The president said that this required that every young child had access to early childhood development, that every child can read for meaning at the appropriate age, that the country prioritises achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and that South Africa substantially reduces the drop-out rate in schools.
“We must ensure that every school-leaver has the confidence, the capabilities and the opportunities to study further, find employment or gain work experience. This work should align with initiatives like the SA Youth Pathway Management Network, the Presidential Employment Stimulus and the YES initiative, which support young people in their efforts to find pathways into the economy.
“Together, we have a responsibility to develop a new generation of patriotic citizens, young people who are conscious of their responsibility to build a better society. This is a new generation that refuses to engage in crime, corruption or gender-based violence, that is dedicated to the values of democracy, non-racialism, non-sexism, freedom, equality and human dignity,” Ramaphosa said.
He also hailed the efforts made by teachers, saying that despite at times working under difficult circumstances, the country’s teachers were examples of resilience, excellence and professionalism.
Ramaphosa said that even at the height of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, teachers had remained true to their calling, to secure the country’s collective future, adding that the country was indebted to the teachers who made it possible for the education of the country’s children to continue through blended learning and other strategies.
“It is with deep sadness that we remember and pay tribute to all the teachers and other education officials who have succumbed to Covid-19. In their honour, we must safeguard the safety of teachers and learners, and ensure that the teaching and learning environment remains conducive at all times.
“We need to continue to take the necessary precautions and observe all the health protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in school settings. I wish to encourage more teachers and education officials to heed the best scientific advice available and vaccinate against this deadly pandemic,” Ramaphosa said.
He added that vaccination was not only about protecting one’s own health and life, but that it is also about protecting others and ensuring the country can soon resume many of the activities that have been restricted for the past 18 months.
* Inside Education