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How transformation in our education system can equip the youth for a better future

According to Section 29(1) of the South African Constitution, everyone has a right to basic education – the right to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible. However, this does not translate into the reality we live in today. 

Education challenges in SA

The state of South African education can be described as broken and unequal due to several systematic challenges that the sector has been facing for several years. One of the major factors influencing the education system in South Africa is the lack of adequate infrastructure and essential basic facilities key in ensuring a well-functioning school. 

The circumstances are even dire in the previously disadvantaged schools in township and rural areas, where teachers are few and classes are overcrowded. The effects of poor infrastructure in schools manifest in learners’ dropout rates and low teacher retention rates. The effects are also evident in the underperformance many local schools have been experiencing for many years. 

This puts the youth living in these communities at a huge disadvantage. It limits their access to opportunities that will equip them for the real world. It also infringes on the rights to quality education and the rights to safety and health for both learners and teachers.

A report done by Amnesty International found that “out of 23,471 public schools, 19 percent only had illegal pit latrines for sanitation with another 37 schools having no sanitation facilities at all; 86 percent had no laboratory; 77 percent had no library; 72 percent had no internet access, and 42 percent had no sports facilities. 239 schools lacked any electricity.”

Additionally, the current South African curriculum is dated and doesn’t serve a significant purpose in our modern society. That’s why SA schools should teach the curriculum of the future, not the past.

This indicates an urgent need for transformation to mitigate risks and ensure that the poor educational outcomes that currently exist become an experience of the past. To ensure that today’s youth have equal opportunities for education and a future with a lot fewer obstacles than there are at present. 

What does transformation look like?

Transformation starts with the development and management of sufficient infrastructure and other essential resources. The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) understands how to fix the South African education system through infrastructure. Thus, we facilitate change by accelerating education infrastructure development. We do this by using the educational sector funding we collect through our various programmes aimed at driving infrastructure projects. 

The funding of projects in the education sector is private and public sector-led. Each of these projects is run under the direction of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and Higher Education and Training (DHET). These include; 

  • Student Housing Infrastructure Programme (SHIP).
  • Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) Programme.
  • Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) Programme. 

Together, these programmes seek to facilitate the development and maintenance of necessary infrastructure in the education sector. 

Transformation also requires the replacement of outdated school subjects with new ones that align with the demands of the modern and highly technological era. The DBE has initiated the change and is working towards piloting and expanding the introduction of new subjects in schools across the country.

Final thoughts

The poor quality of the education system in South Africa hinders the youth from obtaining access to quality education, safe learning environments and a future they deserve. Adequate infrastructure plays a huge role in reducing the risks and ensuring that the education sector serves its intended purpose. 

This is why the DBSA is committed to facilitate and maximise infrastructure rollout, particularly to marginalised communities where resources are limited and needed the most. Our continued collaboration with the private and public sector will ensure that we progress and reach the goals of improving the lives of the youth in all communities across the country