The official opening, in late March, of the Royal Bafokeng’s upgraded Lebone II College, in Phokeng, marked an important, and sizeable, investment into the edu- cation infrastructure of the Bafokeng region, in the North West province, which serves about 20 000 pupils in 45 schools.
Founded by the late Kgosi Lebone II in 1997, the new R450-million campus embraces all levels of schooling and incorporates hostel accommodation.
Office of His Majesty the King public affairs executive Keorapetse Tumagole tells Engineering News that it has been built to world-class architectural standards, is environment-friendly and offers a nurturing environment in which to develop free thinking pupils and future leaders.
It incorporates green-building elements through the use of grey water in the gardens and minimal use of air conditioning, with classes that open up completely to the outdoors so as to make use of natural light and ventilation.
Throughout the campus, structures were built on previously underused portions of the property in such a way as to flow with the landscape and preserve the indigenous trees.
The Bafokeng vision for education reform includes interventions in literacy and numeracy, mother-tongue instruction in the early grades, effective school management and strong parental involvement.
In his address, the leader of the Royal Bafokeng Nation, Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi stated: “Our education system is in crisis.”
He noted that South Africa regularly ranked at the bottom of international indices of academic performance, and did not even feature in the top 100 countries in terms of reading, maths or science. When one separated the independent and Model C schools from the public schools in rural areas, the picture became a lot grimmer.
“We teach children to read in the first three grades but we do no give them any books to practise with. That is like teaching a child to play soccer but denying him a ball. “Many of our schools in rural areas do not have libraries that you or I would recognise as such. In terms of numeracy, we teach children to count, add and subtract but we do not teach them the higher-order thinking skills they need to be able to compute, analyse, compare and organise information. Without basic literacy and numeracy skills, what will happen?” warned Molotlegi.
He added that children could not synthesise information to make an informed decision, could not think in three dimen- sion to draw a simple plan and could not understand a sequence well enough to carry out a set of instructions. In other words, they could not function in a world that required thinking, planning and understanding.
This might not be true of all South African schools, he said, but it was certainly the situation in the schools that served rural villages, such as Phokeng. This amounted to systematic educational inequality in a country that had fought so hard to achieve a level playing field for all.
Molotlegi added: “Recruit, retain and empower the best teaching talent you can find, and develop the brightest and most energetic young educators to be the principals, government officials and policymakers of tomorrow.”