- 2003-10-13 (Creation)
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It is a great honour to be associated with the celebration of the tenth anniversary of an organisation that has played such an important role in that phase where we as a liberation movement were preparing to govern, as we put it then.
It is particularly gratifying to observe at these anniversary celebrations that some of our organisations from the democratic movement succeeded splendidly in making the transition from resistance planning to reconstruction delivery.
We extend our most sincere congratulations and our deep appreciation to the CEPD.
We are proud to have been associated with it from its inception, as its establishment flowed out of the ANC’s Education Desk. There is some poetry in the fact that John Samuel who then headed up the ANC Education Desk is now the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and therefore continues to work closely with us, also in the field of education.
The work that the CEPD has done over this last decade will be well-known to those gathered here this evening, and we are certain that there will be those who shall speak on the specifics of that work. What these tenth anniversary celebrations remind us of is the nature of the democratic movement that enabled us to finally defeat apartheid and to start building for a better life for all.
The CEPD was part of the broad and encompassing architecture of the liberation and democratic movement that covered all areas and sectors of our national life, mobilising the efforts and energy of all into one great national effort.
The educational sector was a key area in our resistance struggle as well as reconstruction planning.
The mobilisation of teachers and students in confronting the might of the apartheid state during the most intense periods of resistance was central in rendering apartheid unworkable. We knew, though, that the large scale involvement of the education sector in resistance activities held the danger of disruption with long-term negative effects.
It is for that reason, amongst others, that our educational leaders sought to find constructive methods of planning and implementing alternatives to apartheid education, channelling the anti-apartheid energy into creative modes and actions. We recall the efforts at constructing models of People’s Education and various other educational initiatives of the democratic movement such as the National Education Policy Initiative conducted by the National Educational Coordinating Committee.
In the early nineties, as South Africa approached its first democratic election, the ANC was refining its vision of what the new, democratic South Africa should be like. Of course, the liberation movement had a broad vision of the type of South Africa that we wanted to build, guided by the principles of the Freedom Charter. But faced by the imminence of the elections and our taking over of the leadership of government, we needed to ensure that that vision was fleshed out and concretised. One of the most important of these sectors in which that had to happen was education.
The historical moment was such that it was no longer sufficient to say that the doors of learning and of culture would be opened and that education would be free, compulsory and equal for all children. We now had to be specific about how we were going to achieve those goals.
There was clearly a necessity to establish a centre that would bring together all the democratic research and policy development initiatives of the democratic movement, and mould them into a coherent framework for transforming South African education.
The ANC’s Education Desk was tasked to look into establishing such a centre. As you will know, the Centre for Education Policy Development was consequently established in early 1993 with Dr Blade Nzimande as the Chair of its Board of Trustees, Dr Trevor Coombe as its first Director, and a talented, dedicated and enthusiastic staff.
Due to the efforts of the CEPD, we were able to start our tenure as the government of democratic South Africa with a broad vision of how we wanted to reshape education and training in our country. We are proud to pay homage to that work tonight at these anniversary celebrations.
Apart from its policy development work, the CEPD also led the dialogue with the old regime in the pre-election period. Through the National Education and Training Forum, it helped to facilitate the transition.
The CEPD also undertook training of cadres to prepare them for the responsibilities ahead. A look at the subsequent careers of some of the early CEPD staff shows how their work at the CEPD helped to prepare them for key positions in the education system.
To name but a few: Trevor Coombe became a Deputy Director General of the national Department of Education; Mary Metcalfe became the first MEC for Education in Gauteng; three others (the late Kevin Nkoane, Jonathan Godden and James Maseko) became heads of provincial departments of education. In fact, many of the new recruits to the senior echelons of the education system, including the education NGOs, have been involved in the policy development efforts of the CEPD in one form or another.
We are most gratified to learn that the CEPD continues to support the national and provincial educational authorities through a host of activities such as research, policy development, monitoring and evaluation, project management, and so on.
The kind of independent research that the CEPD and other organisations conduct is a very important activity for any serious research institution. As critical observers and experts in the analysis of education systems and policy, it is essential that professional researchers should independently identify areas requiring research. In this way, they help to increase our understanding of education, identify weaknesses in the education system, clarify problems, point out obstacles to achieving our national goals, and make suggestions for tackling them.
Our education system has made great strides in overcoming the legacy of apartheid. Many have contributed in that process and we commend all of them, including particularly Minister of Education Kader Asmal and his predecessor Professor Bengu.
They will be the first to point out that there are still many serious problems and challenges. The CEPD also therefore has a continuing task ahead of it.
Let us in conclusion commit to the CEPD and other organisations involved in educational planning and research the co-operation of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The Foundation already had discussions with research organisations – including the CEPD, the EPUs and the HSRC – and we have commissioned them to undertake a study of the status and role of schools in poor rural communities. We expect important insights and conclusions about the relationship between poverty and education to result from this research, which will be published later this year. We shall continue to liaise and co-operate in this manner in order to contribute to educational transformation.
Let me conclude by congratulating current and past members of the Board of Trustees, the management and the staff of the CEPD on their tenth anniversary. They have done excellent work and have made an important contribution to the establishment of a new system of education in South Africa. But let me remind them that they cannot rest on their laurels. There is much work still to be done before our nation and our people achieve the education system that they aspire to and that they deserve.
I thank you.
CEDP replaced by CEPD throughout the speech. CEPD is the Centre for Education Policy Development.