Source: Groundup, Manqulo Nyakombi


The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is excited that our learners have gone back to school today, whilst the Grade Rs are starting a new journey of learning in basic education. SAFTU wishes all learners in both private and public schools a prosperous academic year.

Despite our excitement, we are saddened that our children – about 13 million learners – are going back to schools that are poorly resourced and understaffed. The under-resourced schools are a recipe for the poor education that has produced dismal results in literacy and numeracy, including the number of learners who drop out of schools.

The latest report of the National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) published in August 2023 shows that little has improved in schooling infrastructure since 2021. Out of 22 597 public schools in basic education, 635 uses generators for electricity. Despite the repeated incidences of learners drowning in faeces at schools in Eastern Cape and Limpopo, 3 932 still uses pit toilets; 16 714 are without basic libraries; 18 671 are without laboratories; 14 949 are computer centres and 9 733 are without sports facilities.

In addition to lack of key infrastructure, the fiscal austerity by government has also meant that schools are understaffed as vacant posts are not filled and natural attrition takes place. This has led to educator-to-learner ratio that is high compared to South Africa’s peers in developing countries and OECD, at 1:31. If we factor in the unequal distribution of the learners and educators from one school to another, some schools and grades are experiencing severe overcrowding. Such overcrowding makes it impossible for quality learning and teaching to take place.

Failures that arise from lack of equipment such as Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM), lack of infrastructure, understaffing and poor management of the schooling system, have produced dismal results particularly for the foundation and intermediate phases of our schools. Hence 80% learners in Grade 4 cannot read for a meaning. The consequences have further been failures to implement the provisions of inclusive education as outlined in the SIAS policy and the aggravation of the learning barriers for some learners.

SAFTU calls on government to take our children serious. That should start with government halting its budget cuts, increasing the enrolment of educators, and building infrastructure. Furthermore, government’s planning should not be to decorate the matric performance by redirecting the resources to Grade 12 whilst starving critical phases (foundation and intermediate) of education with resources.

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