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ZULU MONARCH King Goodwill Zwelithini has called on the government and private sector to invest in the teaching of mathematics, science and information communication technology (ICT) in rural schools.
Zwelithini was speaking in Nongoma, northern Zululand, during a visit by mining mogul and executive chairman of African Rainbow Mineral Patrice Motsepe, who donated R3million for school development in the Zululand area.
"It's important to encourage the government and private sector to invest in the teaching of maths, science and ICT subjects in rural schools," he said.
Zwelithini said the low usage of ICT in rural areas suggested that we are running the risk of having many rural communities marginalised. He said ICT has been used in many countries to drive rural development.
"India's ICT strategy has been a key driver in the country's economy and has been used to drive the agricultural sector."
Zwelithini said the investment of a billion in rural ICT infrastructure by the India's rural development ministry sparked unprecedented economic activity in more than 600 000 villages.
"I believe that we can also achieve this here in KwaZulu-Natal."
Zwelithini said backlogs in KwaZulu-Natal were massive.
As shown by the 2007 national education infrastructure research study, the province is short of 10898 ordinary classrooms, 11525 specialist classrooms, 4000 Grade R classrooms, 3348 computer rooms, 3 315 media centres, 14000 school administration offices and 30028 toilets, he said.
"If ever there were a time for the leadership to stand up and chart the way forward, it is now."
"We need leaders who are able to ensure that all stakeholders work together to ensure that we achieve the millennium development goals.
"In 2005 the international community said at the current rate the right to education would not be achieved in Africa until 2130," he said.
Zwelithini said though the government had done much to provide infrastructure needed in schools, the recent economic meltdown had affected education negatively.
"Education is the only tool we have to eradicate poverty and ensure economic growth," he said. "For the rural areas education is particularly important."
He said the study found that 90 percent of unemployed young people were Africans and the situation was even worse in rural areas.
Motsepe stressed that developing rural education was essential to economic growth.
"If we are to achieve something in SA, we need to focus on developing rural education," said Motsepe of his donation of R3 million.