9 February 2012
South Africa’s push for universal access to education, and for improved learning and teaching, are starting to pay off, President Jacob Zuma told Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday evening.
Delivering his fourth State of the Nation address, Zuma noted that over eight-million learners were attending no-fee schools and benefitting from the government’s school feeding scheme, with school attendance now close to 100 percent for the compulsory band of 7-15 years of age.
“A major achievement is the doubling of grade R enrolment, from 300 000 in 2003 to 705 000 in 2011,” Zuma said. “We appear poised to meet our target of 100 percent coverage for grade R by 2014.”
However, he noted that the government remained concerned by the report of the General Household Survey in 2010 that just over 120 000 children in the 7-15 year old band were out of school.
‘In school, in class, on time’
Zuma also congratulated the teachers, learners, parents and the communities for the efforts, which saw an increase in last year’s matric pass rate, adding that the government’s intensive focus on education was paying off.
“We will continue to invest in producing more teachers who can teach mathematics, science and African languages. Our call to teachers to be in school, in class, on time, teaching for at least seven hours a day remains pivotal to success … we thank the teacher unions for supporting this campaign.”
Higher education targets
With regards to higher education, Zuma said the government was exceeding its targets, with close to 14 000 school leavers being placed in workplace learning opportunities over the past year, and over 11 000 artisans having completed their trade tests.
He was pleased to see an increase in the number of learners attending Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, and urged parents to encourage their children to enrol in these colleges, as the country needed the skills these colleges were offering.
To expand access to tertiary education, Zuma announced that R200-million was spent on helping 25 000 students to pay off their debts to institutions of higher learning last year.
He further announced that a total of R300-million had been allocated for preparatory work towards building new universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.