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Shortage of Classrooms by Suzanne Edmunds

13 June, 2016

Suzanne EdmundsThere was an article in the paper headlined ’72 PUPILS TO A CLASSROOM.
As horrible as this information is to read, it is correct. The journalist has hit the nail on the head.
Very sadly this story and the picture is typical of many schools in KZN. It is a real challenge for the Department of Education to keep up with the needs at each and every school.
When authorities talk of the shortage of classrooms in the province the figure bandied around is 14,000 at any given time. However much building goes on, this figure doesn’t change. There are many reasons for this. A major reason is the changing demography – the migration of rural people to the cities. Another is that many classrooms are in such bad condition that it is not safe for young learners and their educators – they need to be demolished.
I write on good authority. Project Build Trust is at the forefront of building educational buildings mainly in KZN, but also in other provinces. All our funding is from the very generous donor community, private trusts and the many businesses who care and who support education through the corporate social responsibility or enterprise development programmes.
When we travel to other provinces, we are greeted by similar stories exactly as described in your article of huge numbers per class, big boys and girls sitting three to a desk designed for two; bad ventilation etc.
How can our society possibly expect good education to happen under these conditions?
Project Build Trust has been working in this field for 40 years. There is hardly an area in KZN that has not benefitted from our ability to harness funds from the donor community to help improve the conditions at schools. In these years we have built we estimate 6000 classrooms.
One of our Trustees, a retired educator Mr Moses Mogambery former chief education specialist for curriculum (grades 10-12) in his well-researched article in our 2012 annual review writes, “……….Whilst the quality of teaching stands out as the single most powerful determinant of education outcomes, it is evident that school infrastructure is beginning to play an increasingly significant role as well.”
He makes reference to three studies all of which show similar results regarding the role of school infrastructure in the achieving of educational outcomes. They is a report authored by ED Young (2003) published after three decades of research in the USA; A series of reports by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) and similar studies by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on learning in Latin America and the Caribbean. All these attest to improved results and better behaviour when there is quality infrastructure for education.
So while we at Project Build understand the environment, it is our hope that the community will rise to the challenge to help build better schools. It is not a cliché to say that our South African society is the direct beneficiary of a better educated society.

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