It’s easy to feel apathetic about politics when, as a young person, it all seems a little out of reach. What bearing does something like the State of the Nation Address (SONA) actually have on our day-to-day lives?
While it may not seem like it, SONA plays an integral role in a larger system that can initiate change and accountability in South Africa — something that affects all of us.
So What’s the Point?
The State of the Nation Address, which was delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday evening, 7th February 2019, is a notable event for a variety of reasons. Firstly, SONA brings together the three usually separate branches of the South African government: The Executive (the Cabinet), the Legislature (Parliament) and the Judiciary (the courts). Secondly, it marks one of the few times that the two Houses of Parliament (the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces) engage in a joint sitting.
The primary purpose of SONA is for the president to report back to the branches of government, as well as the rest of the nation, on the general state of the country in terms of what the government has achieved and what they plan to achieve going forward. This allows for Parliament to either accept, reject or amend what the president proposes and to furthermore ensure that these intentions are actualised.
What Went Down at SONA 2019
Last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation amid great political turbulence: namely the dramatic end of former president Jacob Zuma’s 9-year term, and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s swift ascension thereafter. This time around, the circumstances were slightly less dramatic, but the stakes were nonetheless still high.
So, what did President Ramaphosa have to say last night at the 2019 SONA? Here are 5 interesting points made by President Ramaphosa in the address that are particularly relevant to young South Africans:
1.Tablets for all by 2025
Starting with the most disadvantaged schools in the country, President Ramaphosa resolved to provide a tablet to every learner by 2025. Ramaphosa intends for the tablets to replace textbooks and to become digital workbooks for the learners.
2. Work experience requirement
In order for more youth to access employment and enter into the job market, the work experience requirement for entry-level jobs in the public sector is being done away with. This means that young people will be given employment opportunities regardless of previous work experience.
3. New Subjects
High school curricula will receive an array of new ‘technology subjects’. These include technical mathematics, technical science, aviation studies and mining sciences, to name a few. Various public schools in the country will also undergo transformations in order to become ‘technical high schools’.
4. New infrastructure
President Ramaphosa proposed a new infrastructure implementation model to ensure various government-driven building projects are executed. This will be supported by the Infrastructure Fund (which aims to accumulate R100 billion over the next 10 years to push the implementation of new infrastructure). The President noted that, “as a first step, we will expand projects underway already, such as student accommodation.”
5. Safe sanitation in schools
The President took a moment to express deep sympathy regarding the death of two primary school students as a result of unsafe sanitation in their schools. Ramamphosa committed to acquire safe and appropriate sanitation infrastructure for almost 4000 schools around the country.
As well as these 5 points made by the President, Ramaphosa also highlighted several general areas of focus which he insisted will underpin all of government’s actions going forward. These include:
- Inclusive economic growth and job creation
- Improvements in the education system
- Improvement of the quality of life for all South Africans, specifically the less-advantaged
- An accelerated fight against corruption and state capture
- Better equipping the capabilities of the state to address people’s needs
It is evident that President Ramaphosa has outlined various intentions to improve the state of education, as well as the lives of students in the country. While it is somewhat unclear how exactly these goals will be met, it’s important to move forward with heightened awareness of what the government has promised and to remain mindful of what they ultimately deliver.