The following remarks were delivered by DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane, during an address to parents of grade one learners in Ekurhuleni today. The Leader was joined by DA Gauteng Premier Candidate, Solly Msimanga.
Greetings fellow parents,
It is with a great sense of pride and hope that I speak with you all today on the first day of school for our children in 2019.
Like all of you here with me today, I am a parent of a son who as we speak is at school for his first day of 2019. Like most of you, I had the privilege of taking him to school for his first day this morning.
As we walked together through the gates at his new school, I was reminded again of the founding dream of South Africa’s democracy: That everyone can have a chance to get a good education, work their way out of poverty, and build a life of meaning for themselves and their families. Somewhere that dream has gone wrong over the past 25 years. We all still value an excellent education, but our government does not.
We know the ability of a good school and committed, involved parents to change lives and to open up so many wonderful opportunities to our children. It was a good education that changed my own life for the better. This foundational dream I believe is shared by all of you for your children. We are told that South Africa is more divided than ever. But we all want exactly the same thing for our children. A country where fair access to education, opportunity and real long term jobs makes it possible for our children to go on to do anything they want with their lives, unrestrained by the burden of poverty.
In 12 years in the year 2030, I want our children to be walking away to universities and careers in a world we cannot even begin to imagine today. We earnestly hope, and I hope that each of us will earnestly work to ensure, that all of our children who start school today will finish school in 2030. Let’s not let our children become part of the statistics that tell us that 49 out of every 100 boys and girls who start school today will not make it to grade 12. Our country seems to be okay with that statistic, but I am not. We cannot be okay with it.
Our education system is sabotaging our children’s access to opportunity. It is a crime against their future life prospects, and it is up to us to change things now. I ask for your support this year in refreshing in our hearts, and in the lives of our children, the hope and optimism we all once felt, but which has been strained in recent years.
In three years’ time, the statistics tell us that three in four of our children will not be able to read with meaning. That is, 78% of pupils in South Africa cannot read by the time they reach grade four. Again, our country seems to be momentarily outraged by that statistic, but then nothing happens. I am not happy with that statistic. One of the reasons I am in politics is to change it, and now it is personal.
All of these statistics should frighten us. But I want us to choose hope over fear, because this is the year when we really can do something about it. The South African dream may have stalled, but isn’t it time we got it back on track?
If voted into government, the DA would end the unhealthy stranglehold of one major union over all education policy and practice. We would hold teachers accountable for the basics, like showing up on time, or showing up at all.
We would introduce a one-year Voluntary National Service where school leavers, like your own in 12 years’ time, can develop income and skills. The future of the economy that our kids will enter is that of small businesses where the DA will grow opportunities through increased funding support and removing silly rules that get in the way of their fair access to jobs.
But when our kids need help, we have and are creating job centres throughout the country that provide information, advice and free internet to job-seekers. I am visiting one such DA-led job centre not far from here in Diepsloot on Friday.
‘A job in every home.’ This future is possible.
As we leave our children in the hands of their teachers today, we thank and applaud the many excellent teachers who are devoted to giving only the best to their learners.
A future DA government will bring change that builds One South Africa for all our children. A future where a quality education, and fair access to opportunity and real long-term jobs is not available only to some, but for all our children, and their children after that.
Your children are future professionals, artists, innovators, leaders, presidents, and so much more. I hope they have a fun first day at school, and in twelve years, I hope to see them all fulfilling their immeasurable potential.