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In February, just before lockdown, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International said our schooling is “characterised by crumbling infrastructure, overcrowded classrooms and relatively poor educational outcomes … perpetuating inequality and, as a result, failing too many of its children, with the poor hardest hit”.
The Covid crisis has made the situation worse … but on top of that, government has a skewed set of priorities.
Today, Kagiso Trust chief operating officer Themba Mola shares his nonprofit organisation’s concern that, despite the very real needs in the education sector, money is being taken away from it to shore up the failed South African Airways.
He says, to fund the bailout, “the department of basic education had R275 million shifted to SAA, while a further R1.3 billion in funds meant to upgrade water and medical infrastructure that indirectly affect pupils, has been taken. The trust notes that higher education and training lost a staggering R1.1 billion.”
The money could have gone towards eliminating the “scourge of pit toilets” and improving infrastructure like classrooms and libraries. The loss of this funding “will hit the poorest of the poor hardest”, notes Mola.
It is encouraging that agencies like the Kagiso Trust have spoken out on the rearrangements of government budgets, because they are at the coal face of trying to improve education. Their efforts need to be complemented by a government commitment to education. That certainly doesn’t seem the case at the moment.
Mola also correctly points out that improving education is the task of everyone and that parents, teachers and even businesses have crucial roles to play in funding and in providing other forms of assistance. A great country can only be built on the foundations of a great education system.
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