Pretoria - Basic Education Deputy Minister Enver Surty says learner dropouts lead to the high number of young people not in employment, education or training.
According to Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), young people constitute 41.2% of the country's population, while the South African Labour Force Survey for June 2014 indicates that 36.1% of young people are unemployed.
Speaking at the official opening of the Du Noon Primary School in Cape Town on Wednesday, Deputy Minister Surty said high dropout rate of learners in the education system is the most immediate challenge in South Africa.
Currently, about 70% of the nearly five million unemployed South Africans are aged between 15 and 34 years. The sad reality is that about 60% of jobless South Africans did not have secondary-level education, and had not worked for the past five years.
It is clear that only through investment in basic education can our country extricate itself from the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality, said the Deputy Minister.
He referred to research on education outcomes in South Africa, which points to concerns about poverty and vulnerability to anti-social and risky behaviours as major contributors to poor learner performance and exclusion from education.
These vulnerabilities include, among others, teenage pregnancy, low levels of literacy and numeracy, drugs and substance abuse, increase in school violence, pervasive gender based violence, gangsterism and bullying, HIV/AIDS, and obesity among our children, and the breakdown in traditional family structures, among others.
Building more schools of hope
He said government is also aware that to improve the overall picture of basic education, it must pay particular attention to physical infrastructure.
We know that research has concluded that learners studying in poorly designed schools felt that they were a reflection of their school -- undervalued, worthless, dirty and uncared for.
Many pieces of educational research show the link between low self-esteem and under-achievement occasioned in part by poor infrastructure.
Our investment is basic education is based on the premise that education is a vital tool that is used in the 21st century to succeed -- both socially and economically, said the Deputy Minister.
He said basic education is a vital instrument that can be used to mitigate most of the challenges facing society, be it social ills, poverty, inequality and pervasive unemployment.
He said the knowledge that is attained through basic education helps open doors to a lot of opportunities for better prospects in life and better career growth.
Deputy Minister Surty said construction of three more schools will be completed later this month at Scottsdene and Delft-South here in Cape Town and Hawston in Hermanus.
At the same time, about 100 schools are at different phases of implementation in the Eastern Cape and he hopes that more than 100 would have been built by the end of this financial year across the country.
There is tangible empirical evidence that basic education improves both the prospects of learners and communities, he said.
Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative
Du Noon Primary School was built through the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI).
ASIDI, which is an R8.2 billion public-private programme, is one of the government's Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs).
The objective of ASIDI is to eradicate the Basic Safety Norms backlog in schools without water, sanitation and electricity and to replace those schools constructed from inappropriate materials (mud, wooden, asbestos) to contribute towards levels of optimum learning and teaching.
The Schools Infrastructure Backlog Grant (SIBG) funds the ASIDI portfolio. To date, the ASIDI programme has delivered 179 state-of-the-art schools, another batch of 60 schools will be completed in the 2017/18 financial year.
The Deputy Minister said a total of 615 schools have been provided with water since the inception of the project during late 2011, while about 425 schools have received dignified sanitation, and approximately 307 schools have been connected to electricity for the first time.
Source: South African Government News Agency