30 April 2012
Nelson Mandela turns 94 on 18 July. A new project aims to honour the great man, and help realise his long-held dream of a proper education for every South African child, by coming to the aid of 94 schools in dire need of new or radically upgraded infrastructure.
The 94+ Schools Infrastructure Project was launched last week by the Department of Basic Education in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and Brand South Africa.
It will form part of Mandela Day, which is marked across the world on 18 July each year to inspire people to take action to change the world for the better and, in doing so, to build a global movement for good.
Mobilising resources and support
The project aims to mobilise resources and support from various sectors of society to tackle the huge infrastructure backlog facing schools that serve South Africa’s poorer children.
“President Mandela forged invaluable partnerships with the private sector towards the building of schools, particularly in poor communities across South Africa – an initiative that the education sector can build on,” the department said in a statement last week.
Interested organisations are invited to pledge their support for the project by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The 94 Schools Project originates in the former President’s strong view on the importance of education, and his world-acclaimed efforts to build an equitable system of education in South Africa,” Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said at the launch in Johannesburg.
Progress, but still huge shortfalls
South Africa has made considerable progress in improving school infrastructure over the last decade. Since 2000, according to the department, 1 206 schools and a further 38 664 classrooms have been built, while 5 214 schools have been equipped with running water and 2 847 schools given electricity.
Massive shortfalls remain, however, with the department estimating that R66-billion is needed to bring all schools in the country to a level of optimal functionality.
At the current rate of resource allocation, it will take the department 30 years to clear this backlog.
‘Innovation, partnerships needed’
Brand South Africa CEO Miller Matola, also speaking at the launch, said the project was a call to government, business and civil society to get involved in transforming education in the country.
“We have to find new ways to build human capital in our country,” Matola said. “Our approach requires innovation and partnerships to deal with the challenges.”
Basic education director-general Bobby Soobrayan said that with the project, the department aimed to create an environment that was conducive to quality teaching, learning and improved performance in the targeted schools.
“Public-private partnerships are one of the most effective ways to meet infrastructure backlogs,” Soobrayan said.