Education is a priority for South Africa, but – as in many other countries – children living in poorer areas are often at a disadvantage.
Thinking outside the box, to deliver classrooms in a box
Traditional township and rural schools typically have classrooms with a ratio of 80 learners to one educator, whereas better-resourced public schools have a ratio of 30 learners to one educator.
Many factors impact the quality of education delivery, but time with teachers and educators is one of the most important. Traditional township and rural schools typically have classrooms with a ratio of 80 learners to one educator, whereas better-resourced public schools have a ratio of 30 learners to one educator. Some independent schools have reached an average ratio of between 15 and 25 learners to one educator, according to alternative investment firm Capitalworks. The difference is stark, and as a result of this imbalance, students in rural, under-resourced schools have less one-on-one time with their teacher and numeracy and literacy outcomes tend to be poor.
In Mamelodi, Pretoria, the Alaska informal settlement has grown from 4,000 to 22,000 residents in the past year with no access to basic services, such as water, electricity, sanitation and refuse removal, and a high unemployment rate. But community development organisation Viva Foundation, in collaboration with its private sector partners, is starting to change this.
The Viva Village is a pilot project which aims to establish a service hub to meet community needs, particularly those of children. It includes a pioneering independent school, established by Viva and Tomorrow’s People Independent Schools in Pretoria, and funded by private sector partners including Capitalworks and GE.
The focus is on rapid delivery of quality education to rural communities. By using shipping containers as classrooms and a dedicated education model, the school can be installed in less time than traditional bricks-and-mortar facilities. In communities such as Alaska, where population growth has been fast and significant, delivery speed is key to ensure that children receive the education they need, when they need it, starting from preschool.
In Alaska, all basic educational infrastructure has now been established, with teachers employed for the first two years and curricula developed. A further two containers have been equipped as a media room and a computer centre. Each year more containers will be added to provide further classrooms, with higher grades to be rolled out year by year.
The next phase of development includes a GE sponsored container classroom, ready for installation in 2016. When the Grade 3 children arrive for their first day of school at the start of the year, they will have their own classroom and the necessary facilities to support their continued learning.
“We believe quality education is a human right, and that all children deserve the very best. But making sure this ideal becomes a reality requires innovation and creativity – and that’s exactly why this pilot project in Alaska was so attractive to us,” said Thomas Konditi, president and CEO of GE South Africa and GE Transportation in Africa.
Alaska’s container school could be just what is needed to bring high-quality education to poorly-resourced settings.
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