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Keynote Address Delivered by Jeff Radebe, MP, Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation; on Behalf of the President of the Republic of South Africa, H.E. Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa at the 18th National Teachers’ Awards Ceremony Held at the Sandton Convention Centre, Gauteng


17 February 2018


        Programme Director

        Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga

        Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Mr. Enver Surty

Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Naledi Pandor

Honourable guests, Mrs Graca Machel, the Nelson Mandela

Foundation, the Sisulu family, Mrs Louise Asmal, OR Tambo

Foundation and the Tambo family

Department of Basic Education Director-General, Mr. Mathanzima Mweli

Honourable Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee and the Select Committee

MECs for Education

Former Directors-General of the Department of Education

Heads of Provincial Education Departments

All National Teaching Awards sponsors

Members of the Media

All Education Stakeholders’ Representatives

Finalists of the 18th National Teaching Awards

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

Fellow South Africans


Programme Director;

I must hasten to convey President Ramaphosa’s sincere apologies for missing this august occasion. As you know, he delivered the State of the Nation Address yesterday, in which he gave all of us marching orders.

President Ramaphosa is spearheading our national project of renewal. Paramount to this renewal is education as a tool to break the cycle of poverty. The government of South Africa considers education as an apex priority in its programmes. Access to basic and higher education and training are at the heart of the government’s commitment to the future of this country.


I must commend the Department of Basic Education for establishing this novel, highly imaginative and forward-looking project. We are converged here today for these Awards, which celebrate excellence in the teaching profession. These awards recognise and celebrate the sterling contribution that our teachers make, not only in nurturing and empowering learners for their future careers, but in developing humanity.

Programme Director, we dedicate this 18th edition of the National Teachers Awards to one of the greatest sons of Africa to ever walked on planet earth – Isithwalandwe, Seaparankoe, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, affectionately known as Madiba.

In his eulogy at the memorial service of Madiba, the former President of the United States, President Barack Obama, said, Madiba was, “a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.” Obama summed up Madiba’s contribution to humanity when he declared that he was, “the last great liberator of the 20th century”.

As we know, Madiba dedicated himself towards the realisation of a noble goal, that of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, and prosperous South Africa.  He dedicated himself to the betterment of the conditions of the oppressed throughout the globe.

As a nation, we must continue to draw lessons and inspiration from his life, as we confront the challenges of the present.  We shall use this historic occasion, the centenary of Madiba, to unite, rebuild and renew our country with a special focus on the basic education sector.

In his speech yesterday, President Ramaphosa cited education as the tool that we can use to break the circle of poverty. In this sense, the President echoed the sentiments of our global icon, Madiba, when he said:

“It is through education that the daughter of a peasant, can become a doctor; that the son of a mine worker, can become the head of the mine; that a child of farm workers, can become the president of a great nation”.


As we celebrate Madiba’s achievements as a freedom fighter, a selfless leader, a democrat, and founding father of our modern nation, we must do so, cognisant that his legacy cannot die while we live.

Madiba taught us that ethical leadership is indeed fashionable.  He offered hope to the hopeless; resilience to the brave; and intellectual clarity to us all.  He remains the moral conscience of our struggle against the vestiges of colonial oppression and apartheid. Our Madiba was a brave soul, kind-spirited, courageous, and magnanimous leader and father.  

He knew that public power was held in trust for the benefit of the people, not for personal gain. He was an exemplar of probity, benevolence, selflessness and courage.  These are the core values that must undergird the process of renewal in our nation.

Programme Director; Madiba’s greatest contribution was on reconciliation and improving human relations between the former oppressed and former oppressors.  As our country has entered a new era of renewal, we must return to Madiba’s core values.  We owe it to the new generation and posterity to forge ahead and heal the divisions of the past.

We must reflect on his contributions as we strive to build a more humane South African nation that espouses the principles of Ubuntu and social cohesion. We must strive to uphold the vision and the values that Madiba cherished for our nation to prosper.

We must all agree that basic education is at the heart of building such a South African nation.  In this regard, the teaching profession is a pivot around which a cohesive society will emerge.  Failure is not an option.

Programme Director, teaching, and therefore education, is so vital to our human progress as a people such that it requires the collective effort of all of us.  To reinforce this point, our founding President Madiba said –


“Without education, your children can never really meet the challenges they will face.  So it's very important to give children education and explain that they should play a role for their country”.


It is therefore humbling, that tonight someone will walk away with the Nelson Mandela Lifetime Achievement Award.  This prestigious occasion, which is about the celebration of excellence in the teaching profession, comes at a time when we have a lot to celebrate and commemorate as a country, and as a people.

Consequently, the 18th National Teaching Awards, occur on the year that our very own constitutional democracy celebrates its 24th anniversary.  Our Constitution declares basic education as an inalienable basic human right for all South Africans. The Constitution being the supreme law of the land, together with a variety of local, continental, and international conventions, provides the moral imperative and a mandate for the Government to make access to quality educational opportunities widely available to all South Africans.

In the context of its founding values, our Constitution must be viewed as an instrument for promoting the improvement of the quality of life of all citizens; thus freeing the potential of each person.  Thus, it is the responsibility of all South Africans to protect and advance the ideals of the Constitution without fear, favour or prejudice.

We must without shame, and without retreat, fight against the scourge of crime, corruption, State capture, and any other malfeasance that does not advance all that is good for and about the Republic of South Africa.

In this regard, teaching is arguably the most critical profession in our endeavour to build a new society.  In a normative sense, we all know that teaching is a profession, but those who take the plunge and train as teachers, are actually answering a higher calling to bring light to the nation.  The contribution of teachers to our lives, is invaluable and immeasurable.

The ultimate vision of the National Development Plan (NDP) is to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality through inclusive growth by 2030. The NDP identifies education as one of the key elements in creating a better and more prosperous South Africa.

In achieving the objectives of the broader developmental framework, basic education has been identified as being a central component.  This is due to the fact that education plays an important role in building an inclusive society, which provides equal opportunities for all through effort not accident of birth.  It is only basic education that has a potential of allowing all South Africans to realise their full potential, particularly those from previously disadvantaged communities.

As a nation we can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building a capable developmental State, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout the society.  What brings us together is the overriding commitment to a joint national effort to reconcile our nation and improve its people’s well-being.

We are encouraged as a nation to reclaim the legacy and core values of Madiba by ensuring that the teaching profession is a highly regarded for its extraordinary and valuable contribution to society.  We need to inject ample amounts of respect and status back into this profession, similar to that which we learnt from this struggle icon.

South Africa’s progress in navigating the transition from apartheid to democracy, was built on the ability of leaders who put aside parochial interests in favour of national interests. We need great patriots who will put South Africa first. To build the South Africa that we all desire, we require leaders who put the country first, to put the future ahead of today.

It is empirically proven that nations that invest and value the profession of teaching in public schooling in general have a greater chance to unlock economical bottlenecks in the whole economic value chain.

I urge all the school leaders to continue working hard through encouraging, recruiting, training, and retaining new teachers by acting as good examples to the new generation.  At the same time, how we recognise, honor, and show respect for our experienced educators will reaffirm teaching as a profession of nation-builders and social leaders dedicated to our highest ideals.

These awards should encourage teachers to rededicate and recommit themselves to quality learning and teaching. Teaching is a communal endeavour, and it is vital that the different stakeholders play their part in promoting basic education. As parents, teachers, community leaders, learners and ambitious students at centres of higher education and training, we must work together to make 2018 a resounding success.

In conclusion, in honour of Madiba and other martyrs who sacrificed their lives so that we can have have a better life, let us recommit ourselves to education. Let us remember that in our pursuit of freedom and democracy during the struggle for liberation in South Africa, we were inspired by the Freedom Charter, which proclaimed that the Doors of learning shall be opened to all.

This is the promise that we made to the nation when we ushered in the democratic rule. This is the promise that we shall keep. Let us join hands as we embark on this journey of renewal.


I thank you.

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