/ 16 July 2008

Gauteng to get more schools

Fifty-four new schools will be opened in Gauteng this year and 150 science laboratories refurbished in previously disadvantaged communities, Gauteng minister of education Angie Motshekga said in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Ten of those schools have already been opened in some areas around the province, she said at a press briefing.

Motshekga said education has to become more relevant to Gauteng residents and pupils should be motivated to read beyond what is required.

”We must ensure that they are the best skilled people who are employable within the economy, who are productive within the society, who are entrepreneurial, self-employed and committed to lifelong learning,” she said.

She claimed there is a reduction in dropout and repetition rates and admitted that the quality of education, especially in historically disadvantaged communities, remains a ”major challenge”.

However, findings by the ministerial committee on learner retention in the South African schooling system, published on March 27 this year, revealed that dropping out in grades 10 to 12 is still a problem, although attracting pupils has significantly improved over the last 30 years.

”The committee concluded there is a problem of learner retention, which is more pronounced after grade nine. The dropout rate below grade 9 is statistically insignificant, but increases sharply from grades 10 to 12,” the report read.

Motshekga said Gauteng has put in place a social security package that ensures access to learning in classrooms by providing social grants, nutrition programmes, scholar transport and preferential education funding that is both pro-poor and equitable.

”Recently the department also passed legislation for free schooling in the neediest communities,” she said.

South Africa has achieved an access rate in education that equals many developed countries and surpasses most developing countries, she said.

According to a report by the South African Institute of Race Relations published earlier this year, although access to education has improved considerably, Mauritius, Bolivia, Peru, Kenya and Botswana fare better than South Africa.

The institute said that while access to education has improved considerably, this appears not to have been matched by improvements in the quality of education.

Motshekga said prioritised areas in the education sector include strengthening special schools, reducing backlogs in school equipment, recapitalisation of Further Education and Training colleges, expansion of early childhood development and the implementation of revised norms and standards for school funding. — Sapa