Ramaphosa: ‘Teachers must keep pupils in school to prevent youth unemployment’

06 October 2021 - 14:27
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the 21st National Teaching Awards at Emperor’s Palace in Kempton Park.
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the 21st National Teaching Awards at Emperor’s Palace in Kempton Park.
Image: Presidency

President Cyril Ramaphosa called teachers the “economic activists” of the country because they inspire the future leaders who will help build the economy. 

The president said he realised the country had a major problem with youth unemployment, which he blamed partly on pupils not finishing their education. He called on teachers to pay attention to every pupil and their home environment so they could adjust their teaching to the child’s needs. This, he said, could help keep children in schools and away from the cycle of poverty. 

Ramaphosa was speaking at the 21st National Teaching Awards (NTA) at Emperor’s Palace in Kempton Park on Wednesday.

The awards recognise and celebrate outstanding teachers who, often under challenging circumstances, remain committed to their noble craft and produce extraordinary outcomes.

Guest of honour Ramaphosa said he decided to come in person instead of via Zoom to the auspicious occasion as the awards make him feel joyful.

“We must say as a nation we salute our teachers as a cohort of people whose dedication and commitment drives economic development and social development and enforces the growth we want to see in the country.”

He called teachers “economic activists” as “any nations future starts in the classroom with the work done by teachers”.

We must ensure every school leaver has the confidence, the capabilities and the opportunities to study further, find employment or gain work experience
President Cyril Ramaphosa

He acknowledged the difficulties and said teachers were examples of resilience, excellence and professionalism, thanking them for remaining true to their calling during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are indebted to teachers who made it possible for the education of children to continue. You adapted beautifully.”

He also paid tribute to teachers and educational professionals who succumbed to the disease.

“We must safeguard teachers and pupils. We must secure the teaching environment. We must continue to take the necessary steps and precautions and observe all health protocols to ensure safety in the workplace.”

Ramaphosa said education was the bedrock of identity and existence in the country, and was used as the apartheid governments greatest weapon against the people by denying decent education.

He said the Fourth Industrial Revolution was changing how we work and live, and how we play and educate children.

“Our children operate in the world alongside smart machines. We need to educate them differently and teachers must adapt and adopt new ways of teaching. I believe our teachers are committed to manage this transition.”

On unemployment, he said joblessness among youth was a worrying problem and he saw this when 12-million people applied for the R350 social relief of distress grant. 

The government did research on those receiving the grant and found a “huge number” had never worked and more than 50% of those people had not finished 12 years of schooling.

We must know everything about our pupils and ask if you can improve how you teach, or if there are problems at home
President Cyril Ramaphosa

“I was dismayed as I realised we have a major problem.

’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.

“We must ensure 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.”

Teachers, he said, needed to play a bigger role in childrens lives and need to find out why a child stops coming to school.

“We must know everything about our pupils and ask if you can improve how you teach or if there are problems at home.

“We must ensure we know pupils and their family backgrounds fully. If you’ve never done it, do it now. Go beyond giving attention to the pupil but to the parents as well. We must know where the pupil comes from so we can craft our education.

“We know many pupils come from backgrounds inherited by the apartheid past which defined our people as uneducated and poor.”

Minister of basic education Angie Motshekga asked teachers to go back to class as the pandemic had “haemorrhaged” teachers. 

She said it energised her that so many young people had become teachers because pupils could connect with them.

“We are privileged that we’ve given awards to the angels of their communities and it gives me pride to see our profession has excelled against all the odds in the wake of Covid-19. It is an honour to be caretakers of human beings. It is not a profession of glamour, but if done right it helps to avoid the generational catastrophe of poverty.”

The awards for excellence were given to the following teachers:

  • S/Hero award — Nkasana Matlapu, Van Der Merwe Technical High, Limpopo;
  • National learner award — Nhlakanipho Nkosi, Tlotlang Secondary School, Free State;
  • Kader Asmal award — Dorothy Masilo, Lekwakea Primary School, North West;
  • Lifetime achievement award — Rishichand Budhal, Rose Heights, KwaZulu-Natal;
  • National best teacher award — Mariëtte Wheeler, Protea Heights Academy, Western Cape;
  • Excellence in grade R teaching — Nneheng Thamae, Meqheleng Primary School,  Free State;
  • Excellence in primary school teaching — Richter Anneka, Protea Park Primary, North West;
  • Excellence in primary school leadership — Phillip Mphahlele, Kloof View Primary, North West;
  • Excellence in teaching mathematics — Onkabetse Mohitlhi, Joseph Saku Secondary School, North West;
  • Excellence in teaching physical science — Awonke Tshefu, Unicom Agricultural School, Free State;
  • Excellence in technology enhanced teaching and learning — Nkosinathi Mzobe -Deda Primary School - KwaZulu-Natal;
  • Excellence in secondary school teaching — Leuba Sokana, Sepoloko Secondary School, Limpopo;
  • Excellence in secondary school leadership — Renate van der Westhuizen, Apex High, Western Cape; and
  • Excellence in special needs teaching — Jevonn Cloete,  Rusthof LSEN School,  Western Cape.

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