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MEC Debbie Schafer: Official inauguration of Botha’s Halte Primary School

Speech delivered by Minister Debbie Schafer at the official inauguration of the new Botha's Halte Primary School

It gives me great pleasure to be with you today on this important occasion to celebrate with you the official inauguration of this beautiful state-of-the-art, world-class school facility for primary school learners.

A very warm welcome also, and a massive thank you, to all the donors, sponsors and to everyone here today who has been involved in this Love project. And it is very clear � dit is duidelik � dat die donateurs wie hierdie wonderlike skool vir u gebour het, gee om vir julle.

Today is a good day. There are not very many positive stories in our country at the moment, but the story of Botha's Halte is one of them. It is one of the greatest examples of what we can achieve in education and as a society if we work together.

Our values as the Western Cape Government are Caring, Competence, Accountability, Integrity, Innovation and Responsiveness. And our motto for some time has been Better together.

This school embodies every one of those.

Not only does it embody our values as a Government, but it also greatly assists us in ensuring that the learners of this rural farming community are prepared for the 21st Century.

I was so excited to hear that part of the plan for building this school was to include internet connectivity and e-learning, and not only for this school, but the donor has also connected other schools in the broader area so that you can connect to each other!

One of the Western Cape Government's strategic priorities is to ensure that learners are 'digitally literate'.

Every day we are witnessing a revolution in how our learners acquire knowledge and skills in a digital world.

So, in order to ensure that our children are being equipped adequately to be economically active when they leave school, we place a very high emphasis on e-Learning. Dit help nie as ons leerders die skool verlaat en nie werk kan kry of skep nie want hulle het nie die nodige vaardighede.

eLearning has been a priority for the Western Cape Education Department for over a decade, and over the last five years we embarked on an exciting journey to accelerate it and make eLearning a reality in all Western Cape schools by fast -tracking the provision of broadband at schools, as well as other technology.

This was designed to make a major contribution towards improving the quality of teaching and learning in the province and entrenching the skills people need to participate in our technology-driven economy.

Earlier this year, the WCED hosted the Future Focused Education Conference, which was a first of its kind in South Africa. This Conference was designed to ensure that we constantly focus on what is changing in the world and in education, and constantly apply our minds to how we can ensure that we are adequately preparing our learners to be productive citizens in a fast-changing world.

A crucial part of this is how we incorporate technology. Digital technologies are changing the way that learners learn, the way teachers teach, and where and when learning takes place.

I met with someone the other day who is starting an online school. One of the private school groups has already started a school in a normal office building in Cape Town, where the learners study on their own online, and the teachert is there to help one on one if they do not understand something. Things are changing.

Botha's Halte is already demonstrating how 21st century technologies can be used to reach and contribute to quality education in rural and outlying areas of South Africa.

The school has already become an educational hub for the district and through easy digital teaching, seamlessly links with other teaching institutions such as the University of Stellenbosch. This is a fantastic initiative and one which we are looking at expanding in the light of the ongoing financial crisis and the shortage of teachers in some of our key subjects.

It is also evident that the digital environment is already empowering learners and teachers as never before � I see this first hand here today.

As a government, we need to ensure that all young learners have access to modern learning environments and future-focused teaching. This is where the challenge lies for us as government, in this current fiscal environment, as we simply cannot afford to provide everything we would like for all our learners. And this is why I am delighted to work with partners in education such as all of those who have been involved in this project.

I have consistently said that investing in education is one of the best investments one can make. Good education is essential to grow the economy, and also to provide people with opportunities in life that are not open to them if they do not have a good education.

Efficient and equitable access to education in South Africa is one of our greatest challenges, and I have a particular concern for rural communities. Very often people approach me and want to do a project in our schools, and I always ask what about the rural areas? Many people do not pay attention to the rural communities, and so I am very pleased that this school has been built in a rural community so that our rural learners can also access the best education possible, with modern facilities.

Schools such as Botha's Halte change lives. I have witnessed first-hand how they can change communities' attitudes towards education and decrease learner drop out and apathy. They are giving the learners and their communities hope.

As the Western Cape Provincial Government, we hope to create the ladder of opportunity that young people need to become productive and employable adults with brighter futures, so that we break the cycle of poverty in many of our communities. Our systems must support the development of Future-Ready learners in a Future Focused World.

The successful completion of this new school is the result of a collaborative effort of many people � and I must thank everyone involved for the massive contribution to this school, to this community and to education in this province.

But there is one-person who must be thanked especially � who I believe wishes to remain anonymous. The donor.

They say that achievement is often anonymous. Some of the greatest things on earth have been done or achieved by people who you may never have heard of, quietly dedicating their lives to improving those of others.

The donor who has funded this wonderful school is one such person.

With government and the private sector joining hands and pooling efforts and resources, we are able to provide greater opportunities for our learners and such partnerships will undoubtedly provide greater responsiveness in not only meeting the educational needs of our learners but will assist us in developing and growing South Africa's economy.

To the school Principal, Mr Pedro, teachers, School Management Team and the School Governing Body � thank you for all that you have done to ensure that this school is a success. Please know that you have the continued full support of the WCED.

I am so excited for the learners of this community who will have the opportunity to learn at this school. I have no doubt that this school is going to contribute significantly to improving the socio economic circumstances in this community, and the life chances of our youth.

I will follow your progress with great hope, care and interest and we will continue to support you, in all your endeavours.

I wish you all the very best for what appears to be a very promising future.

Thank you.

Debbie SchA�fer

Western Cape Minister of Education

Western Cape Government

Source: Government of South Africa

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