Text of remarks and answers to questions by President Barrack Obama at Young African Leaders Initiative Town Hall at University of Johannesburg-Soweto, Johannesburg South Africa when Obama visited Three African Country recently.
Question: Okay. Firstly, my name if Han Dinkelmman (p.h) I’m nervous. (Laughter and Applause) I’m a student at UJ. I’m an honor student; also studied education. You said education people should stand up. (Laughter) My education is oh-, my question is we’ve got a lot of barriers in his country, and one of those barriers is the amount of students in our classes versus a single person. And what I find difficult is, how does that one person stand up and control, in some cases-we’ve just come back from training-some cases 90-100 kids in one class? It’s difficult enough to carry 40 in my class. How do you carry those 90- I find it difficult-and try to make an impact in their lives?
Obama: Good I think that’s a great question. First of all, I think it’s wonderful that you’re going into education. Very proud of you (Applause) no job more important than educating our young people. This is a challenge that we have in United State as well, and that is the issues of class size.
Now, our problem typically is that our class sizes are around 35 or 33, and we’d like to see if we can get it down in the twenties. If you’re talking about 90-(Laughter) – that’s a whole other level. Now, we’re not talking about universities, because by the time you get to university it’s-you better be focused on your studies. It’s not the job of the teacher to make you do your work and pay attention,’ because you’re now an adult. But when it comes to young people, studies do show that particularly for poorer children, the more one-on-one attention that they can get from their teachers, the more personalized instruction they can get, the better they’re going to do.
So the first response is, if you can budget-if a government can budget smaller class sizes, that’s better. But every country is going to have the resources to do that. And one of the things that we’re starting to see in the United States is, how can you effectively use, for example, teacher’s assistants in a class, who may not be fully certified teachers but can break up, let’s say, a class of 90 into smaller groups. This is also where technology can also potentially make a difference, because it’s conceivable that if you’ve got some sort of technology-a couple of laptops-that you can leverage one teacher into multiple instructions. The question you raise, through, makes me want to suggest to my team when we leave here that we start talking some of the best practices and some of the things that we’re learning in the United State and seeing if there may be some application we can-might be able to start some pilot programs here in South Africa to see if we can make an impact there (Applause)
Good. All right. Last questions? One more. All right. All these folks have been so patient in the back; I don’t want them to feel neglected. So the-this gentleman right here, because he seems very eager. Right here. Yes, yes, you can right here. (Laughter) Go ahead. The-but you guys can feel free to stand together if you want, but-(Laughter) – I’m only to take question from one of you. (Laughter) What’s your name?
Question: My name is Sydney Mukumu (ph). I’m from Limpopo. (Applause) thank you. President Obama, I met you in 2006. I was working for the embassy.
President Obama: Excellent.
Question: Yes. I’m very much worried about some of the United States International-I mean foreign policy, especially on the environment. President Obama, today I want you to tell these young leaders about the foreign policy of the United State on the environment.
President Obama: Yes.
Questions: Just like people who are protesting outside, there are people who are crying and now you must address them here-
President Obama: Okay, let’s go.
Question: and tell them outside what is happening. Make it clear, and then when you go back you will have a safe trip. Thank you very much, President (Applause)
President Obama: I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m ready. (Laughter) I’ll see if I can make it clear. U.S. environmental policy is something that I care deeply about. As some of you know, I grew up in Hawaii, one of the most beautiful places on Earth. And as a child, I was just taught to treasure what the Earth gives us and to make sure that we leave it for the next generation. And obviously in a country like South Africa, with incredible beauty and natural resources, that same mentality about conserving the Earth and nurturing it to pass on to future generations, I think, applies here just as much as it does in the United State.
The biggest challenge we have environmentally-and it is an international challenge that we cannot solve alone-is the best of climate change. There area other issues: dirty water, dirty air. But the truth is, is that we’ve made enormous progress over the last several years, over the last several decades in the United States. And if you come to the United States, environmental quality is pretty good. And internationally, we’ve promoted policies around how mercury is released into the environment, and how other poisons are released in the environment, and how business have to be held to international standards in terms of workers safety. Those are areas where the United State has been at the forefront. We’ve been at the front of the line, not the back of the line when it comes to those issues.
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