Programme Director, Joyce Mashamba;
The President of SADTU, Thobile Ntola;
The General-Secretary of SADTU, Mugwena Maluleke;
The Provincial and Regional leadership of SADTU;
MECs of Education;
The Mayor of the Capricorn District, Makgabo Mapoulo;
The Executive Mayor of Polokwane, Freddy Greaver;
Civil Society Representatives;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for inviting me to the launch of the South African Democratic Teachers Union’s Curtis Nkondo Professional Development Institute.
This is a historic occasion to the extent that it is a defining moment in the evolution and development of the teaching profession in South Africa.
The bold step that SADTU has taken to establish this institute is a declaration of intent to take education to a higher level.
We see and understand this institute as an initiative attuned to the imperatives of modern South Africa that is struggling with challenges of modernisation, reconstruction and development.
Admirably, the Curtis Nkondo Professional Development Institute holds out commendable benefits for the education fraternity at large.
For instance, the establishment of this institute will set SADTU on a path towards improving the lot of its members through skills development and training.
More than anything our education system needs cutting edge skills by educators the better to begin to produce learners ready for the rigours of tertiary education, especially in the area of natural science.
In this regard, it is fitting that SADTU has decided to name this institute after the late Comrade Curtis Nkondo a teacher par excellence who dedicated a large part of his life to the liberation struggle.
In confronting the debilitating system of Bantu Education, Curtis Nkondo went a step further, envisioning a conception of education that was holistic and transformative.
Curtis Nkondo belonged to a cohort of teachers who understood the value of education as being beyond narrow pedagogy and as a tool with which one could beat down and outsmart the apartheid regime.
His persona epitomised the ultimate teacher, both in the manner he carried himself, his character and his love for learning.
In this regard, the irony of detaining him for his teachings and anti-apartheid stance cannot be lost on those who sought to frustrate his calling: an act that afforded him space to educate fellow detainees.
In other words one might consider the detention of Curtis Nkondo as a strategic opportunity to both share and impart knowledge with the most dedicated freedom fighters.
Society looks to educators as models of moral excellence and the transmitters of culture, value system and norms. Teachers are charged to socialise learners into matured and responsible adults who will in turn take up their societal places in the future.
Through their current outlook, disposition and deportment, educators have to display the kind of well-adjusted human personality into which society is expecting learners to mature in the fullness of time.
Against this background, educators have the moral, professional, intellectual and historical duty to avoid acts of behaviour inconsistent with these expectations of their profession.
SADTU in particular, as a professional body of educators aiming to see to the interests of its members, cannot be seen to be showing behaviour alien to the inherently superior moral tenets of the struggle for the building of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and just society.
In fact, as the custodians of our education, SADTU more than any other social force shoulders preponderantly more responsibility to lead the way towards a South Africa defined by high-minded values.
In this regard, to say that society at large was disappointed by the acts of moral outrage that played themselves out during SADTU’s recent march in support of its demands for the Minister of Basic Education to resign is an under-statement.
Nothing could justify sexist, public insults levelled at the Minister of Basic Education as happened and one can only hope that this act amounted to a fleeting lapse of moral judgement.
I am confident that SADTU’s leadership would have equally recoiled in moral horror at such an abomination, and would do everything possible to re-orient its members away from behaviour that breaks with the noble tradition of teaching and detracts from the commendable history of this teacher union.
To win the hearts and minds of the broader public, reasonable and justified demands must be accompanied by legitimate action, the kind of action which may kindle support from society at large.
Acting recklessly and in an anti-social manner alienates that support and defeats the purpose of your case.
The cause for which your struggle is waged cannot be remembered by society if the struggle happens under questionable moral conditions. Society will only remember acts that impinge on its sense of moral decency and the vision to which it aspires.
I am confident, therefore, that SADTU members will continue to draw lessons from their mistakes with the view to correction, thus distinguishing themselves through their conduct and portraying a commitment toward high-level discipline in providing leadership to society.
In the final analysis, these matters, which constitute the framework of the sociology of education, have an impact on our education system’s efficacy to deliver quality education to the nation.
Addressing the historical disabilities in our education system presumes a concerted effort and breadth of vision about the nature of our challenges.
Nothing short of a clear understanding of the scope and nature of the challenges before us can prepare us for the tasks ahead.
Father Trevor Huddleston envisioned the depth of the ill-effects of Bantu Education way back in 1957 when he argued that:
“Today it is (Bantu Education) being implemented efficiently and very swiftly all over the country. Yet its consequences will be so grave for the African people that they may take a generation or more to recover from them”.
Father Huddleston’s penetrating insights still resonate today, more than five decades after he uttered them.
The implications for the educator are indeed enormous. Teachers must now more than ever commit themselves to ensuring that we build an education and training system that is steeped in the highest quality standards, producing capable cohorts of future leaders who will help eradicate the challenges we are confronted with.
They shoulder the responsibility of being role-models and change agents in their communities, starting with arrival at work on time, well-prepared and armed with a professional outlook.
Embedded in education is a transformative force that enables the learner a full grasp of their world, thereby equipping them with conceptual tools to change it for the better.
Whatever our difficulties may be, education is a tool that can endow our people with the means not only to analyse their circumstances but also to change them.
As the mother of all professions the importance of education in our quest to build a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, just and prosperous South Africa cannot be understated or over emphasised.
SADTU must also play its role in contributing to policy to ensure increased production and participate vigorously in development of staff policies, operational plan structures and job descriptions, performance management systems, minimum performance standards and training programmes and the provisioning of the tools of trade.
As such we hope that the Curtis Nkondo Professional Development Institute will help us in answering the vexed questions that remain unanswered about the higher financial resource inputs but lower results at an output level.
We must improve the human resource inputs in education by focusing on high quality teacher development and quality assurance across the board.
For our part as government we undertake to create and cultivate a conducive environment in support of educators, including the provision of infrastructure, learning materials and relaxant training support.
Government continues to explicate the importance of education, and by extension the importance of continuous learning, up-skilling and re-skilling of teachers.
We also pledge our support for Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development and the National Development.
All of these policies demonstrate our appreciation for the need to have well-trained, motivated teachers that are rewarded appropriately.
Certainly this will inspire the development of a culture of lifelong learning necessary to sustain and create skills needed by our economy and improving our social conditions.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Allow me to conclude by re-stating the ancient wisdom which advices us that:
“Ignorance is not a sin; so long as someone is willing to learn, someone ought to be willing to teach”.
As such a vibrant teaching profession is one in which teachers take responsibility for their own professional development.
Today, by launching this Union’s Curtis Nkondo Professional Development Institute you have sent all of us an unequivocal message that teachers are willing and able to take responsibility for their own professional development.
This means increased responsibility for government to facilitate training and support for teachers on an on-going basis without hindrance.
I wish you well in taking this work forward, convinced that it will go a long way towards improving the quality of education in South Africa.
I thank you.