Back to School

11 January 2024

By Niko Allie

The beginning of a new school year is always marked with anticipation and excitement.  For many this will signify the beginning of their school journey, while for others it represents the culmination of years of hard work.  

This year both inland and coastal schools open at the same time on 17 January 2024, and as government we are determined that learning begins from day one.  

Since 1994, government has prioritised education as a means to transform the lives of young South Africans for the better.  Our interventions have led to continuous improvements in our education system as reflected in the steady increase in the overall matric pass rate, and we are committed to every learner receiving the best possible education.

The recent 2022 Census shows that more than 73.4 percent of the population between the ages of five and 24 attended school in 2022, up from the 70.1 percent recorded in democratic South Africa’s first census in 1996.

We also saw a noteworthy increase in the number of people who completed their secondary school education from 16.3 percent in 1996 to 37.6 percent in 2022, and post-school education at 12.2 percent in 2022 from 7.1 percent in 1996.

Education and learning has always been a partnership, and the role played by parents and guardians is crucial. It is therefore essential that you get involved in your child’s schooling. Wherever possible parents and guardians should try to be actively involved in activities at school, including school governance structures. 

It is also vital that you cultivate a healthy, open and cooperative relationship with your children’s teachers. Teachers are the backbone of our education system; they often go beyond the call of duty and they are secondary nurturers and counsellors of our children.  

Once the new school year commences it is vital that parents and guardians are involved from day one.  Take an active role in your child’s education by having regular discussions with them about school.  If you notice changes in your child’s behaviour or attitude talk to them and try and find out what is the matter. If you are worried about your child you should approach the school, the principal or teachers. 

The issue of bullying and violence in schools is a sad reality not just in our country, but also throughout the world. It is therefore important that everyone plays their part to ensure the safety of learners and educators in schools. We are resolute that all schools should also create an inclusive, respectful culture that promotes and protects respect for human rights. Every learner has the right to learn and play without fear of being hurt emotionally, psychologically or physically.

The Department of Basic Education has made the issue of school safety a priority and has put in place various policies and measures to ensure the safety of all learners, educators and relevant stakeholders in schools. 
A National School Safety Framework has been developed to curb violence in schools and our National Strategy for the Prevention and Management of Alcohol and Drug use amongst learners in schools uplifts the fight against substance abuse.  Interventions such as these are critical in ensuring that schools are safe places of learning and growth. 

With the school year fast approaching, we call on parents and guardians to be ready for the challenges that lie ahead.  By working together, we can ensure that schools are places of learning where dreams take flight.  

This coming year promises to be particularly exciting as the rollout of next generation subjects in the form of coding and robotics begins to take shape.  The subjects were piloted in 2023 at 18 schools nationwide and this represents a quantum leap for learning.  Interventions such as these are essential in ensuring that young people are equipped with the skills and knowledge for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). 

As we look to the year ahead, there is indeed reason to be optimistic. The announcement of the results of the 2023 National Senior Certificate Examination on 18 January 2024, will close another chapter on our journey to provide quality education since 1994. 

However, the journey never ends, and the class of 2024 stands ready to make their own history and ensure that we move South Africa forward.