Sadtu says infrastructural problems are hindering the delivery of quality education


Zodidi Mhlana

JOHANNESBURG- Despite the strides that South Africa has made over the past years to improve education, problems existing within the sector are hampering the delivery of quality education according to the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu).

The country’s largest teachers’ union, Sadtu said that problems of overcrowded classrooms and violence against teachers are some of the serious issues that should be urgently addressed.

Sadtu’s General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke said: “The issue of overcrowding has really been a challenge, some teachers have to teach classes which between 50 and 60 pupils. That’s a serious problem if you want to deliver quality education. The infrastructure is not capable of accommodating all the learners especially in provinces such as Gauteng and Limpopo. In Limpopo, you find classes with over 90 and 100 pupils.”

Rural provinces like Kwazulu- Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape have the major infrastructural backlog. Some schools in the provinces are made of mud and wood.

Maluleke said effective teaching and learning cannot take place under such trying conditions.

“If you have a class with 70 pupils, how are you going to ensure that they all get an opportunity to read. The impact of massive classes is huge, it creates a deficit that we have to address all the time,” he said.

According to the legally binding Norms and Standards for school infrastructure which Basic Education minister, Angie Motshekga, published in 2013, classrooms should have a maximum of 40 learners. Last year, it was revealed that there were 4 624 schools with only plain pit latrines, 1 017 schools built of inappropriate material and 571 schools with no access to electricity.

A study released in 2016 found that “effects of overcrowded classrooms are far-reaching for teachers and learners.”

“Larger classes are noisier and more prone to pushing, crowding and hitting. Learners cannot pay attention or participate at the required level of intensity because classmates are noisy and restive. One teacher cannot cope with such situations in the classroom. Teachers lose valuable lesson time in such circumstances, because they spend most of the lesson time trying to control the learners,” the report stated.  The report also found that overcrowding was “overwhelming for newly appointed teachers.”

Social Justice organisation, Equal Education said that reducing the country’s big classrooms would improve learning outcomes.

“Class size tends to have a bigger impact in earlier grades, and for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. Education policy in South Africa sets the ideal maximum class size for grades R to 4, at 35. However, analysis by Stellenbosch University’s Research on Socio-Economic Policy (ReSEP) of average class sizes for grades 1 to 3 reveals that the majority of foundation phase classrooms violate this ideal. Close to a third of learners in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal are in large classes that exceed 50, and between 10% and 15% are in extremely large classes that exceed 60,” the organisation said.

Maluleke said that violence that some educators were subjected to was driving them out of the sector.

“We live in a violent society. A school is a microcosm of a society. The majority of attacks are from learners. This makes it difficult for the department to retain teacher,” he added.