King Goodwill Zwelithini. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
King Goodwill Zwelithini. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Zulu’s King Goodwill Zwelithini has demanded that the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department achieve an 80% pass rate in this year’s matric exams — and then, to honour his 70th birthday next year‚ a 100% pass rate.

Zwelithini was addressing more than 700 principals from the Zululand and Amajuba districts in Ulundi on Tuesday in his capacity as patron of education in the province. His newfound status as patron was a result of a meeting he had with KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC, Mthandeni Dlungwane, earlier this year‚ during which he was presented with a full report about the province’s Matric results.

The department has set itself a target of a 76% matric pass rate for 2017, but Zwelithini said there was no reason why the department could not achieve 80%. "Then next year you can achieve 100% when I turn 70. This can happen [if] we improve certain subjects. The ball is in your court‚" he said.

The king‚ who slaughtered two cows for the principals‚ described education as the "light for the nation".

KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC, Mthandeni Dlungwane. Picture: THULI DLAMINI
KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC, Mthandeni Dlungwane. Picture: THULI DLAMINI

"We need to be jealous of our education. We need to protect the dignity of results in all grades. We must not waste a lot of energy on matric at the expense of lower grades. Matric is like reaping what has been sown in lower grades. If you’ve not sown the right seeds you can’t bother about reaping a good yield."

In a speech characterised by jokes‚ Zwelithini spoke about the teaching profession as a calling and a key for the future of the country. He said the fact that the education department received the largest chunk of the country’s budget meant there must be more positive results. "There is a big challenge for our principals to make sure that things are being shaped far better than worse."

He said while SA achieved political freedom in 1994‚ the biggest challenge now was what contribution people were making to that freedom. "What’s important today is to do work that is going to uplift our children."

While there were problems with children‚ principals should also ask themselves if they were not a problem in their own schools, he said, adding that some schools "are in a situation that we never thought about during apartheid" when teachers were highly regarded.

Zwelithini lashed out at those schools that had become taverns and drug dens and teachers who abused alcohol. "Our jealousy should ensure that our schools are ... centres of learning. We can’t allow a situation where our children are turned into useless drunkards. We have a problem of taverns near our schools."

The king also warned that the country’s education was at risk of being disrupted by the jobs-for-pals scandal which had rocked the department. This‚ he said‚ could result in the infiltration of the teaching profession with teachers who were not dedicated to their jobs.

"I know some of you are dedicated to their work but I’m saying those who have not tied up their shoelaces must do so", saying it was even worse if education was being disrupted by teacher unions. "I know you are facing a lot of problems in schools and we need to deal with those. Education needs to be prioritised but it needs dedicated people. Children need leadership from principals."

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