Minister Grant: Improving Infrastructure Planning in Education
Media Statement by Minister of Education, Donald Grant
In February 2010, the Western Cape Government released their education infrastructure plan which included the building of 45 new permanent school structures over a three-year period (including new schools and replacement schools that were built with inappropriate materials).
Two years into this plan, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) can proudly report on its progress.
To date, we have completed the building of 23 new schools and have replaced eight schools built with inappropriate materials.
In the current financial year, being the last year of the plan, we expect to complete the building of three new schools and 13 replacement schools.
Once these schools have been completed, the Western Cape Government would have succeeded in building 26 new schools and 21 replacement schools in the province in the planned three-year period. We will have therefore exceeded our original target!
The completion of this plan will mean that an additional 30 000 learners will have access to education in the Western Cape. A further 27 000 learners will also have the opportunity to learn in a suitable and safe environment where quality teaching and learning can take place.
While we are pleased and proud that we are on track in delivering on the commitments that we made in 2010, we must look at how we will address future infrastructure developments and needs.
The shape and size of the education system is dynamic and needs to adapt to the constantly evolving environment within which our schools operate. In the Western Cape, we face a number of development challenges simultaneously, including but not limited to population shifts, improved learner retention and a greater demand for skills development.
As some communities expand and others contract in size and density in the province, as more learners are retained throughout the system and as the need for upskilling our learners intensifies, we need to be prepared to adapt the shape and size of the education system and apply our resources effectively and efficiently to accommodate the many realities that exist in the Western Cape.
When we determine the school provisioning needs in the province and ensure that the shape and size of the education system is appropriately structured to meet these needs, we must take account of the changing circumstances in which our schools operate.
To assist us in responding better and more efficiently to the changing demands placed on our education system, we are pleased to announce that the WCED has developed a new electronic tool for improving infrastructure planning for education in the Western Cape, namely the Geographic Information System (GIS) for Infrastructure Planning.
The new GIS for Infrastructure Planning uses as base information the utilisation levels of schools depicted geographically. In addition to this base information, the WCED is currently populating the GIS with school-specific data concerning the following:
- The actual and required size of school facilities.
- Learner enrolment levels and trends.
- classroom ratios.
- The type of school (ie primary, secondary, intermediate and combined).
- Quintile and poverty index data.
- School fees.
- Medium of instruction.
- Whether schools operate from leased premises.
- Whether schools are built with inappropriate materials.
The new Geographic Information System - which is available and operational for all our districts - provides us with a better opportunity than before to interrogate and diagnose systematically school provisioning issues that may require investigative, planning and delivery attention in the Western Cape.
Using the new GIS as part of our infrastructure planning for education, we will be better equipped to make informed decisions with regard to the consolidation and expansion of school infrastructure in the Western Cape.
This government cares about the education outcomes of our learners and is acutely aware of the value and importance of good infrastructure planning in meeting the school provisioning needs of the province. We must remember that the environment within which our education system operates is evolving all the time and should not be allowed to impact on the system to the detriment of our learners. We need to be planning better as we respond to the changing demands on our education system and take steps to consolidate school infrastructure in the province. With the new GIS we are confident that we will be able to do just that.