The Western Cape Education Department has adopted The Year of the Teacher as a key theme for 2017.

The department will encourage all members of the education community to listen, to reflect, to acknowledge and to celebrate the Western Cape’s excellent teachers. Brian Schreuder, who assumed duty as Head of Education in the province on 1 December 2016, proposed the theme for 2017, to acknowledge the fundamental role that teachers play in ensuring effective education.

He said the department wanted to emphasise the importance of values in education, and the central role that teachers play in teaching and demonstrating these values in the classroom. At the same time, the administration is fully committed to supporting teachers, in line with the core values of the Western Cape Government (WCG).

The WCG has identified six core values that drive its approach to public service. These are: caring, competence, accountability, integrity, innovation and responsiveness. Our teachers are already demonstrating these values in countless ways. We acknowledge this, and will work to ensure that our support for teachers and the public in general reflects these values.

The Head of Department will write to schools to invite teachers to share whatever is of concern to them, and to suggest ways in which to mark The Year of the Teacher. The department will consider their replies carefully. At the same time, the HOD has called on teachers to listen, and to reflect on the crucial mandate of the department to ensure access to quality education for all, despite severe constraints.

Our young people need caring and competent teachers and officials, who are accountable, innovative and who respond with integrity. This applies to all of us, and how we work together as public servants. We will welcome the voices of teachers, and constructive debate. The department will listen, and will seek to apply the lessons learned in collaboration with our teachers, principals, parents and governing body members.

We have started by calling on every component of the WCED to identity three to five actions that we can implement that will make a difference in the lives of teachers. Teachers are welcome to make suggestions. We will seek to educate the public on the roles and responsibilities of teachers, as identified in norms and standards for educators. These range from learning mediators to scholars and lifelong learners, to their pastoral role and roles of assessors and subject specialists.

We will encourage parents, learners and teachers to identify teachers and principals who provide outstanding examples of educators who are making a massive difference in our schools and communities. We will celebrate these examples when we present the Western Cape Teacher of the Year Awards in November, and we will also acknowledge the thousands of teachers who are giving their all in very difficult circumstances.

We are confident that The Year of the Teacher will contribute to a greater understanding of the role of the teacher by all concerned. We encourage parents, and everyone with the best interests of education at heart, to respect and support our teachers as they strive to build the future of our children and foundations of our society.