In Africa, the state of school infrastructure is a pressing issue that affects the quality of education for many children. Unfortunately, reliable school buildings and facilities are not always accessible to all students. The numbers are staggering, with a significant number of children deprived of proper learning environments.
The lack of safe school buildings not only poses physical risks but also creates barriers to quality education. These conditions hinder their ability to learn and grow, perpetuating the cycle of poor education.
Unfortunately, without urgent action, the situation will likely get worse as the region faces a rising demand for education due to a still-growing school-age population.
As one of the leading countries on the continent, South Africa has both an opportunity and a responsibility to lead by example. By prioritising education reform and investing in better school infrastructure, South Africa can inspire positive change across the region. However, the country’s official Census 2022 reveals that 5,2 million children of school-going age are not being educated (an increase of 26% since 1996) for various reasons, one of which is the poor state or lack of education facilities.
Education is a fundamental right that should be accessible to all children regardless of their circumstances. Quality education is defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 4 as follows: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
Of 22,000 schools in South Africa, only 848 are full-service schools
According to an article by BusinessTech in late 2022, significant changes are on the horizon for schools in South Africa. The article highlights the challenges faced by schools in terms of inadequate infrastructure and emphasises the need for improvement. “The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) said that expenditure on education infrastructure in South Africa exceeds R12 billion every year, which is spent by provincial departments. Despite the large budget, however, many problems remain:
- Conservative estimates are that there is a significant shortfall in spending amounting to billions of Rands, leading to a massive backlog in maintenance at education facilities;
- Schools still struggle with water and sanitation. While 99% of schools in the country have sanitation infrastructure, it is often unusable;
- Schools and universities are overcrowded, with schools averaging up to 40 learners per classroom;
- Only one-third of public schools have any form of internet access. 75% don’t have access to a library or computer centre, and 84% have no internet for teaching or learning purposes;
- Of 22,000 schools, only 848 are full-service schools – and learners still struggle to access them due to poor transport integration;
- For universities, there is a shortfall of half a million student housing units, and computer labs and properly equipped laboratories are in short supply.”
Furthermore, schools continue to struggle with basic necessities such as water and sanitation. Access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities is crucial for creating a conducive learning environment for students. It is disheartening to see that these fundamental needs are still not being adequately met.
By investing in building reliable infrastructure and providing necessary resources, we can ensure that every child has equal access to education to improve their lives, that of their families and their communities in the future.