Education Minister Naledi Pandor said it was important that South African children get the best education that can be provided for them if they are to keep up with the world's rapid development.
Pandor was speaking at the Aggrey Klaaste Maths, Science and Technology Awards in Midrand on Thursday.
Pandor said teachers in the 21st century were faced with the task of equipping today's children with the skills they will need to function in a rapidly technologically developing world.
"Critically, we have to teach children how to learn. That is the essential skill that they will need to progress in life," she said.
Pandor stressed that no classroom in South Africa should have an unqualified teacher in any subject field because the country's children "deserve better".
"If we accept mediocre conditions in our classrooms, we are inevitably accepting the conditions that were set upon us by Verwoerd," she said.
"We have come a long way in remedying the damage that apartheid inflicted on our education system, but we have a long way to go," she said.
The awards, which are aimed at honouring teaching excellence in the maths, science and technology fields, are the result of an initiative by the late Sowetan editor Aggrey Klaaste.