Government will concentrate its focus to improving and expanding access to early childhood development, President Cyril Ramaphosa told a joint sitting of Parliament yesterday when he delivered the State of the Nation Address. President Ramaphosa said improvements in early-grade reading were immediately being realised and progress was evident.

“Moving early childhood development to the Department of Basic Education was one of the most important decisions, as we were now able to devote more resources to early childhood development and ensure that through cooperative governance various departments of government get involved in early childhood development augmented by the Department of Basic Education.”

President Ramaphosa congratulated the Department of Basic Education on achieving an 82.9% pass rate for 2023 Grade 12, the highest ever recorded, and particularly the achievement recorded by quintile 1 schools.

“Over the last 30 years, we have sought to use education as a tool to create equality. And with each new year, learners from no-fee schools are accounting for more and more of the Bachelor passes achieved. At the same time, fewer learners are dropping out of school.”

Matric results were announced two weeks ago, prompting the President to call the 82.9% pass rate a “silent revolution”. He credited, among other things, the placement of more than one million school assistants in 23 000 schools. The improvements occur just as Parliament is busy processing the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill to further strengthen the sector, he said.

President Ramaphosa said government had increased funding significantly over the past five years for poor and working-class students at universities and technical and vocational education and training colleges. “One of the worst injustices of apartheid was the manner in which education was used as a tool to perpetuate inequality,” he said.

Sibongile Maputi
9 February 2024