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Gauteng spares no expense to fix schools’ infrastructure

School desk
School desk
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

“The difference between school and life? In school, you are taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you are given a test that teaches you a lesson,” said Tom Bodett, an American author.

Realising that a child spends maximum time in school as a learner, school infrastructure is a major factor behind how a child sees the world as he or she grows up. The Gauteng department of education (GDE) in partnership with the provincial department of infrastructure is investing heavily in school infrastructure, thereby opening one school every week until the end of March.

Our rationale is simple. For too long our school infrastructure played second fiddle to changing political priorities, with the apartheid government bringing a different agenda to keep blacks out of the education landscape.

Some of the schools’ infrastructure on which we are so dependent today urgently needs an overhaul. Also, urbanisation and population growth have added to the pressure.

Our children and learners deserve a positive start to their adult lives, and supportive school infrastructural development and classroom climate helps us achieve that outcome.

Lest we forget, research overwhelmingly indicates that a positive school climate promotes cooperative learning, group cohesion, respect, and mutual trust – all of which have in turn been shown to improve the learning environment.

In short, a positive school climate is directly related to improving academic achievement at all levels of schooling.

We are heartened that the department of education remains the single largest budget item in the province, usually more than R40bn a year. More than 20% of this budget, R8bn, is spent on school infrastructure development.

For our province, education is a catalyst for economic growth and cannot be realised without the classroom. Also, inclusive education is one of the most effective way in which we can promote a unified, incorporated, consolidated and tolerant society.

Why school infrastructure?

In essence, infrastructure consists of all the physical structures and systems that enable a nation, community, state and even an economy to function efficiently. It includes roads, power generation and transmission systems, telecommunication networks, transport and logistics, waste disposal operations, and a host of other sub-systems, including schools.

When the above is coordinated and working like a well-oiled machine, productivity gains are enormous, making the difference between a successful and a struggling economy and communities.

Infrastructure answers one of the questions about what is good about schools today, and what could be improved.

How can we turn schools into places where children happily go, and are able to learn? And what is education for anyway?

While for decades schools were merely intended to be shelters of learning, today’s buildings are expected to be modern, accessible, inviting, flexible, durable, and efficient. Consequently, new schools are expensive.

In the first few weeks of 2019, we invested R70m in a school in Centurion, R105m in Tsakane and R60m in Protea, Soweto. This means since the beginning of the school year, GDE has spent R235m in three communities. In the next weeks we’ll open new schools in Mayibuye, Kanana and Phomolong.

More public schools will be built and upgraded in 2019.

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