The Mpumalanga Government has spent more than R2 billion on education infrastructure in the past five years, as part of their efforts to improve access to and quality of learning and teaching in the province.
Tabling the State of the Province Address at the provincial legislature in Mbombela on Friday, Premier David Mabuza said the past five years have seen a cumulative R2.91 billion investment in education infrastructure.
"We have built 25 new schools, 26 Grade R facilities and ensured that all mud and unsafe structures are eradicated.
"We have built three boarding schools in the Nkomazi and Mkhondo municipalities. This week, we handed over the Izimbali Boarding School in Amsterdam," Premier Mabuza said.
He said they have also re-built a total of 19 storm damaged schools to ensure that learning is not interrupted in areas that have been affected by natural disasters.
The province, the Premier said, has over the past 20 years put in motion a number of programmes designed to improve the quality of Mpumalanga's education system.
"Many of you will recall that we inherited seemingly insurmountable educational reconstruction challenges in 1994. Through our comprehensive support to learners from poor households, we have created an education system that allows every child to dream of a better future, free from the entrapment of poverty," he said.
Premier Mabuza said currently there are 1 646 public ordinary schools in the province that have been declared "no fee schools," which translates into 863 690 pupils from poor households being afforded the opportunity to attend school.
"In addition, we are providing sustenance to 874 600 needy learners for 196 school feeding days through the extension of the school nutrition programme to cover all Quintiles 1 - 3 primary and secondary schools," Premier Mabuza said.
Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres
He said prior to 1994, Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres were not funded and this crucial step in every child's development was not given the consideration that it deserved.
"Early Childhood Development has been and remains a top priority for the province, and this is evidenced in the progress that has been made in this sector over the past 20 years.
"Over the last five years, the current administration paid particular attention to Early Childhood Development to ensure that a solid foundation is laid for our children to perform better in the later years of schooling," Premier Mabuza said.
The premier added that the number of pupils in pre Grade R has increased to 75 275.
"At least 135 741 children are registered for ECD in schools and community-based centres and 1 030 public schools are offering Grade R," he said.
He said despite remarkable progress made in the provision of ECD, they have noted with concern that there are urgent areas of intervention that must be prioritised to improve the quality of teaching and learning at all ECD centres.
"We need to improve the qualifications of ECD practitioners. I am pleased that we are making progress with regard to addressing the slow pace at which ECD practitioners are qualifying.
"To that end, we can report that 700 ECD practitioners have been enrolled with FET colleges to pursue NQF Level 4 and 5 ECD qualifications," said Premier Mabuza, adding that they needed to accelerate their work on providing ECD infrastructure, especially in rural areas.