South Africa honours its teachers

“We acknowledge your dedication and selfless service to the betterment of our country,” Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the National Teaching Awards, an event celebrating excellence in South African public education.

Primary school children join South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on stage at the 2016 National Teaching Awards at Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg. (Image: GCIS)

Now in their 16th year, the awards were held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Saturday 27 February. This year’s event was dedicated to Oliver Tambo, president of the ANC in exile, colleague of Nelson Mandela and himself a maths and physics teacher.

In his keynote address, Ramaphosa quoted Tambo as saying: “A nation that does not take care of its youth has no future, and does not deserve one.”

Since 2000, the Department of Basic Education has hosted the awards to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts made by South Africa’s teachers, often in very difficult conditions, to serve the country’s children – many of whom come from poor communities. According to the department, the event “encourages dedicated and caring teachers in their efforts to develop each learner as a citizen of a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa”.

The awards aim to:

  • Focus public attention on the positive aspects of basic education, and raise the public image of the teaching profession
  • Recognise and promote excellence in teaching
  • Honour dedicated, creative and effective teachers and schools
  • Encourage best practice in schools
  • Give South Africans the opportunity to publicly thank our teachers

“We acknowledge with gratitude the very best among our national brigade of educators,” Ramaphosa said. “They know more than anyone that education is the best weapon at our nation’s disposal to eradicate poverty and its dehumanising effects.”

Ramaphosa said the government was aware of the daily challenges and struggles teachers face.

“We have committed this government to do everything possible to improve the working conditions of teachers,” he said.

Billions spent on education

Highlighting how South Africa’s education system has changed since the dawn of democracy, Ramaphosa pointed out that today millions of children receive free quality education.

“Government has prioritised education and worked to ensure that our schools receive the attention they deserve … the Minister of Finance in his Budget Speech allocated substantial resources to build education infrastructure and improve the overall performance of basic education.”

This year’s Budget set aside R228-billion to fund education – the highest allocation in South Africa’s history.

“Inclusive and equitable quality education for all is the most effective way to address poverty and its effects on children,” Ramaphosa said.

“This resonates very well with the National Development Plan, which says: Improved education will lead to higher employment and earnings, while more rapid economic growth will broaden opportunities for all and generate the resources required to improve education.

He concluded: “By 2030, we will have achieved all these things because we are determined, because we dare to dream, because we work together and, most importantly, because we have the finest teachers in the world.”