Chairperson, it is a privilege to speak in this debate. I will use the opportunity to emphasise the importance of the role of science and technology in directing South Africa onto a growth trajectory. In the absence of job-creating and poverty-alleviating growth, the history books will not look favourably upon us. The DA's 8% growth project is a contribution to this end.
In his book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler wrote: "Nothing should be included in a required curriculum unless it can be strongly justified in terms of the future." A strong focus on the creation of human capital is the password to a better future for all South Africans, and the knowledge economy should be one of the main indicators of the curriculum taught in our educational and training institutions.
Gary Becker, a well-known economist, remarked:
Ours is the age of human capital, in the sense that human capital is by far the most important form of capital in modern economies. Technology may be the driver of a modern economy but human capital is certainly the fuel. The modern economic environment places more of a premium on education, training and other sources of knowledge than was true even fifty years ago.
Becker also notes that in recent history, almost without exception, developing nations with more educated and healthier populations managed to grow faster than average. Especially important for South Africa, then, are our investments in elementary and secondary education. Sporadic curriculum changes, combined with abject failure in literacy and numeracy, do not bode well. Without a well-educated population, investments in science and technology cannot be optimally harnessed.
We cannot disagree with Prof Raphael de Kadt's recent statement: "The Achilles heel of South Africa's future economic and political prosperity has been our limited high-quality human capital formation." Investment in human capital stimulates technology innovations and the high-tech sector. The high-tech sector is where South Africa has to move if it is to achieve the kind of growth necessary to provide jobs and alleviate poverty. But a move to the high-tech sector cannot occur out of the ether. It must be accompanied by concomitant investment in improving educational outcomes, especially those in maths and science.
Achieving 8% growth is not possible without intentionally creating a flourishing knowledge economy. The DA's alternative budget this year recommends a total budgetary allocation of R450 million towards establishing specialist maths and science schools with bursaries for disadvantaged learners, based on the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, centres that we have in the Western Cape. These centres will produce the scientists, engineers and financial professionals that our country needs.
So, where are we on the road to designing a robust, opportunity-laden knowledge economy for all? Regarding research, we are pleased at the news that 60 new research chairs will be awarded to various institutions of higher learning across South Africa. While this news is heartening, strong remarks from the academic community of late have warned that the emphasis on research chairs may be at the expense of broader research. In a recent article, Prof Nicola Illing wrote:
This year started with some researchers at academic institutions in South Africa scrambling to find funds to support the research programmes and graduate students. The applications for research funding, under the competitive funding schemes of the National Research Foundation, had been turned down, despite favourable referee reports on the quality of the proposed science, because of budget limitations. The shift in the funding priorities of the department and the NRF over the last five years is leaving researchers in specific disciplines, as well as their graduates, high and dry.
Minister, u is van mening dat al die navorsingsrade onder die jurisdiksie van u departement geplaas behoort te word. U het vanmiddag verdere definisie daaraan gegee en daarop gewys dat daar 'n mate van ondersteuning en beheer sal wees. Tydens haar begrotingstoespraak verlede jaar het my voorganger, agb Marian Shinn, u daarmee gelyk gegee en aangetoon dat die DA u ondersteun. Ons weet die probleme van die landbou en mediese navorsingsrade is nie net finansiel van aard nie.
Maar Minister, daar is 'n ander, baie groot navorsingsleemte. Onderwys in Suid-Afrika staar 'n legio probleme in die gesig en ons verneem gereeld van onderwysministers van inisiatiewe wat geloods word om talle uitdagings die hoof te bied.
Die diagnostiese verslag van die Nasionale Beplanningskommissie sonder 'n standaardverhoging van onderwys en die noodsaaklikheid van 'n kennisekonomie uit as twee van die nege sentrale uitdagings waarvoor ons land te staan kom. Die spilpunt waarom 'n onderwysstelsel draai, is die kurrikulum wat in sy onderwys- en opleidingsinstellings aangebied word. Vir die afgelope 18 jaar is ons onderwysstelsel gereeld aan eksperimente onderwerp, wat tot die verlaging van standaarde gelei het ... [Tussenwerpsels.] ... en Onderwysministers telkens tot krisisbestuur genoop het. [Tussenwerpsels.] Ek kom nou by my punt, agb lid. [Tussenwerpsels.]
Kurrikulums is gedurig deur deeltydse taakspanne aangepas, sonder algehele sukses. [Tussenwerpsels.] 'n Probeer-en-tref benadering deug nie. Kurrikulumontwikkeling is 'n wetenskap op sigself en behoort in ooreenstemming met wetenskaplike beginsels te geskied.
Die daarstelling van 'n permanente kurrikulumnavorsingsraad is die vanselfsprekende rigting om in te slaan. Noem dit dan nou maar 'n onderwysnavorsingsraad. So 'n instelling behoort die kurrikulum op 'n kontinue grondslag te ontwikkel deur navorsing te doen oor watter eise die samelewing, veral met betrekking tot die toekoms, aan die kurrikulum stel. Verder behoort so 'n raad die kurrikulum, in ooreenstemming met sodanige eise, te ontwerp, uit te toets, gedurig te verbeter en intiem by die implementering daarvan betrokke te wees.
Sedert my voorstel in 2009 - dat 'n kurrikulumnavorsingseenheid 'n noodsaaklikheid geword het - het die Departement van Basiese Onderwys in 2010 die vestiging van die Nasionale Kurrikulum Instituut aangekondig - 'n stap in die regte rigting, maar nie omvangryk genoeg nie. Ons het in die afgelope twee jaar niks daarvan verneem nie. Dr Nick Taylor, tans hoof van die National Education Evaluation and Development Unit, het destyds gemeen my voorstel oor kurrikulumontwerp fokus nie op die werklike probleem nie. Volgens hom was kurrikulumimplementering die groot probleem in onderwys. Hy het my verkeerd verstaan. Albei is stappe in dieselfde deurlopende proses, wat onder leiding van 'n permanente span kurrikulumwetenskaplikes behoort te verloop. By my latere besef dat ons onderwysdepartemente nie oor die nodige navorsingsvermons beskik nie, het ek met hom saamgestem - en ek haal hom aan: (Translation of Afrikaans paragraphs follows.)
[Minister, you are of the opinion that all the research councils should be placed under the department's jurisdiction. This afternoon you further defined your position regarding this and pointed out that there will be a measure of support and control. During her budget speech last year, my predecessor, hon Marian Shinn, agreed with you and indicated that the DA supports you. We know the problems regarding agriculture and medical research councils are not only of a financial nature.
But Minister, there is another very big shortcoming regarding research. Education in South Africa faces a legion of problems and we regularly hear from education deputy ministers about initiatives that are being launched to tackle numerous challenges.
The diagnostic report of the National Planning Commission emphasised the improvement of the standard of education and the importance of a knowledge economy as two of the nine central challenges our country is faced with. The axis on which an education system rotates is the curriculum that is offered at its education and training institutions. For the past 18 years our education system was regularly subjected to experiments that led to the lowering of standards ... [Interjections.] and Education Ministers were obliged to do crisis management. [Interjections.] I am getting to the point I want to make, hon member. [Interjections.]
Curriculums were constantly adjusted by part-time task teams, without achieving total success. [Interjections.] A try-and-see approach does not succeed. Curriculum development is a science in itself and needs to take place in accordance with scientific principles.
The establishment of a permanent curriculum research council is the obvious direction to take. Let's call it an education research council. Such an institution has to develop the curriculum on a continuous basis by researching what demands society, especially regarding the future, is making on the curriculum. Such a council should further, in accordance with such demands, design, test and constantly improve on the curriculum and be closely involved in the implementation of it.
Since my proposal in 2009 - that a curriculum research unit is a necessity - the Department of Basic Education announced in 2010 the establishment of the National Curriculum Institute - a step in the right direction, but not comprehensive enough. We have heard nothing about it in the past two years.
At that time Dr Nick Taylor, who is currently the head of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit, thought my proposal regarding curriculum development did not focus on the real problem. According to him curriculum implementation was the big problem in education. He misunderstood me. Both are steps of the same continuing process that has to take place under the lead of a permanent team of curriculum scientists. When I later realised that our education departments do not have the necessary research capacity, I agreed with him - and I quote him:]
A national curriculum unit should not be housed within the Department of Basic Education. The department's record on research is not good. To really have objective research done on implementation, you need an arm's- length relationship.
Minister, u departement behoort betrokke te raak by hierdie gesprek. U is bewus daarvan dat wetenskap en tegnologie voorheen onder die Departement van Nasionale Opvoeding ressorteer het. Verlede maand, tydens voorbereidende dialoogvoering in die Parlement met die oog op die Wreldberaad oor Volhoubare Ontwikkeling later vanjaar in Rio de Janeiro, het een van die vraagstellers, n Prof Mark Swilling se aanbieding oor die noodsaaklikheid van 'n groen ekonomie, opgemerk dat ons skoolkurrikulum sekerlik verantwoordelik behoort te wees vir die grondwerk daarvoor. Dit onderstreep wat ek bepleit. As ons 'n kennisekonomie en menslike kapitaal wil nastreef, moet dit by die skoolkurrikulum begin. (Translation of Afrikaans paragraph follows.)
[Minister, your department should become involved in this debate. You are aware of the fact that science and technology previously resorted under the Department of National Education. Last month, during preparatory dialogues in Parliament with a view to the World Conference on Sustainable Development later this year in Rio de Janeiro, one of the people who posed a question after Prof Mark Swilling's presentation on the importance of a green economy remarked that our school curriculum certainly had to be responsible for the groundwork of it. It emphasises what I am advocating. If we are to strive towards a knowledge economy and human capital, it has to start with the school curriculum.]
What I have suggested about the curriculum is summarised by Toffler in one short sentence: "Education must shift into the future tense." The only vehicle to take us into a prosperous future is a proper, scientific approach to the whole process of curriculum development by a capable department with a competence in research.
On 4 April, South Africa yearned to win the Square Kilometre Array bid to exemplify the African dream. It would have marked a bold entrance into the African century. The awarding of the world's biggest-ever scientific project to Africa would reverse the trajectory of dead aid and signal a new era of cutting-edge investment that would incisively build our knowledge economy. However, the announcement has now been delayed, partly thanks to Australia's backhandedness. Shamelessly, they painted our bid as a developmental one, accusing us of drawing on Western guilt and sympathy. No matter, we will remind them of the famous 438 cricket match ... [Laughter.] ... in which the world gave us no hope of chasing down the Aussie total. [Applause.] We won on merit then, and we believe that we will win on merit now. [Interjections.] [Applause.]
If South Africa eventually wins the bid, it will be on the back of demonstrated competence alone. We have stunned the world with our scientific capacity, as the site evaluation by the world's foremost independent experts has verified. Inevitable delays create unnecessary uncertainty. So, we empathise with the Minister and her team that the announcement has been delayed.
Agb Minister, ek vertrou dat u die integriteit van die SKA terrein en omgewing met al die mag waaroor u, kragtens die Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act beskik, sal beskerm. Ek versoek u ook om die belange van die gemeenskappe wat deur die teleskope geraak word, op u hart te dra en u daartoe te beywer dat hul persoonlike, maatskaplike en ekonomiese omstandighede beskerm word. In watter mate is u departement daarby betrokke, of gaan die gemeenskapsforums aan die genade van die SKA organisasie oorgelaat word?
Na my onlangse besoek aan die SKA terrein, is dit vir my duidelik dat mense mislei en uitgesluit voel. Hul ervaring is dat hul lewensbestaan en behoeftes gering geskat word. U weet dat ek hier van die mense van die hele Noord-Kaap praat, slegs met uitsluiting van die Sol Plaatje metropool. Hulle is nie maar net, en ek haal aan, "a few people with a few sheep living there", soos een van die SKA leiersfigure na hulle verwys het nie.
Ek het sederdien verskeie briewe van besorgde persone ontvang. Een skryf, en ek haal hom aan:
Die gemeenskap rondom die SKA terrein is trotse Suid-Afrikaners wat die SKA bod ten volle ondersteun. Hulle wil 'n positiewe bydra maak om oplossings vir probleme rakende die projek te vind, ten einde die Suid- Afrikaanse bod te versterk en te laat slaag. Tog ervaar die gemeenskap dat die negatiewe impak van die projek op hul lewens nie vir die departement belangrik is nie. Dit wil voorkom asof die departement hierdie landsburgers se grondwetlike regte minder belangrik ag as om die SKA bod vir Suid-Afrika te wen.
Besware sluit onder meer in dat sekere bepalings van die Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act en die Promotion of Administrative Justice Act wette nie nagekom word nie; dat konsultasieprosesse gebrekkig is; dat beloftes gerepudieer word; dat gemeenskapsforums onder leiding van die SKA organisasie nie die regering se voorligtingsrol behoort te vervul nie; dat die uitslag van 'n omgewingsimpakstudie nie aan die gemeenskap bekendgemaak is nie; dat geen ondersoek gedoen is om die impak op die inwoners se lewens te bepaal nie; en dat die waarde van eiendomme ongetwyfeld negatief aangetas word.
Minister, die hoop word uitgespreek dat u amptenare in u departement, met 'n voldoende begroting, beskikbaar sal stel om na behore in te gryp. Al wen ons nie die SKA bod nie, weet ons dat die MeerKAT'n voldonge feit is en dat gemeenskapsbehoeftes, in die eerste plek, minstens in belang van hierdie projek aangespreek behoort te word.
Ek en my DA kollega, agb Ina van Schalkwyk, in wie se kiesafdeling die SKA terrein gele is, beoog om op 28 Mei met beswaarde lede van die SKA gemeenskap te vergader. Ons sal die uitkoms van hierdie vergadering graag ter gelegener tyd met u wil bespreek. 'n Wen-wen oplossing kn en mt nagestreef word, en dit is alles in u hande. [Applous.] (Translation of Afrikaans paragraphs follows.)
[Hon Minister, I trust that you will protect the integrity of the SKA terrain and area with all the power at your disposal in terms of the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act. I also request you to take a sincere interest in the communities that will be affected by the telescopes, and see to it that their personal, social and economic conditions are protected. To what extent is your department involved, or will the community forums be left to the mercy of the SKA organisation?
After my recent visit to the SKA terrain, it is very clear to me that people feel misled and excluded. Their experience is that others have little regard for their livelihood and needs. You know that I am here referring to all the people of the entire Northern Cape, with the only exclusion being the Sol Plaatje Metropole. They are not just, and I quote, "a few people with a few sheep living there", as one of the leading figures of the SKA referred to them.
I have since received several letters from concerned people. One writes, and I quote:
The community in the area of the SKA is proud South Africans who fully supports the SKA bid. They want to make a positive contribution to find solutions for problems concerning the project, in order to strengthen the South African bid and for it to be successful. Yet the community is experiencing that the negative impact of the project on their lives is not important to the department. It seems that the department is regarding these citizen's constitutional rights as being of of lesser importance than South Africa's SKA bid.
Grievances include, amongst other things, that certain provisions of the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act and the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act are not adhered to; that consultation processes are inadequate; that promises are repudiated; that community forums under the leadership of the SKA organisation should not fulfil the government's informative role; that the results of an environmental impact study were not made public to the community; that no investigation was undertaken to determine the impact on the lives of the residents; and that the value of the properties is definitely influenced negatively.
Minister, the hope is expressed that you will make officials in your department available, with sufficient budget, to intervene properly. Even if we do not win the SKA bid, we do know that the MeerKAT is an accomplished fact and that the community's needs, in the first place, should at least be addressed in the interest of this project.
My DA colleague, hon Ina van Schalkwyk, in whose constituency the SKA terrain is situated, and I intend to meet with aggrieved members of the SKA community on 28 May. We really would like to discuss the outcomes of this meeting with you at an opportune time. A win-win solution can and should be aimed for, and it is in your hands. [Applause.]]