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Four things that count when a South African graduate looks for work

FENELLA SOMERVILLE|

For many young South Africans, a qualification is perceived to be the passport to a good job and decent salary, opening the way to a better life for them and their families.

South Africa’s private higher education sector has grown rapidly since 1994, when the education system began to expand under democracy. The number and types of private institutions have increased and student enrolment more than doubled between 2011 and 2019.

There are currently 130 registered private higher education providers. These institutions enrol about 210,000 students, and produced more than 42,000 graduates in 2019.

The sector is diverse in terms of institutional reputation, size, ownership, fee structure and student demographic.

The number of private institutions have increased and student enrolment more than doubled between 2011 and 2019. Statistics on Post-School Education and Training in South Africa: 2019

In South Africa, the term “university” is reserved for public higher education institutions according to the Higher Education Act. Consequently, private higher education may be perceived as not on par with university education. But there’s little difference between the sectors as far as qualification standards are concerned. All private institutions must be registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training, and need to comply with the same programme accreditation and quality assurance requirements as public universities.

One advantage that private institutions may have – because they are smaller – is the flexibility to adapt their offering relatively quickly to meet the needs of the market. Many deliver niche vocational programmes, using industry experts as educators, with the specific intention of producing more employable graduates.

But do they? Between 2018 and 2020 I conducted research into whether this goal was being achieved. I evaluated the opportunities provided by private higher education institutions in South Africa and the employability of their media graduates, specifically.

I found that the percentage of graduates who found employment was relatively high. But the employment outcomes varied between graduates, strongly shaped by personal biographies as well as enrolment choices and options, and mediated by type of institution.

These findings may be of use to higher education managers, educators, researchers and policy makers. Attention needs to be given not only to the knowledge and skills graduates require for employment but also the other factors that give graduates a better chance of earning a decent livelihood and participating in society.

Employability of graduates

The research focused on graduates who studied to work in journalism, public relations, graphic design, creative and visual communication, including radio and television production and broadcasting. These fields are rapidly changing and increasingly digitalised. Participants came from three private institutions – elite and non-elite – and had been in the workplace for between one and five years.

I found that four things counted for employability: the reputation of the institution; networks and connections; experience; and type of work.

A qualification doesn’t equate to a job. Within five years of graduating, 84% of the graduates were working. Yet some – mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds – remained unemployed. And it seemed their opportunities were diminishing.

Having a job doesn’t equate to earning a decent livelihood. Many graduates were underemployed. Some had taken jobs in factories, retail or administration, merely to earn some income.

One-third of the employed graduates earned less than R10,000 ($700) a month, and 11% of those earned below R5,000 a month. That isn’t far off the minimum wage. There was a pattern: most of the low wage earners were black graduates from non-elite institutions.

Experience is essential. Employers recruit from their industry network. Eighty percent of the study participants had participated in some form of internship to build a base of working experience. But the monthly stipend ranged from R2,000 to R4,000 (between $130 and $270), which barely covered transport costs. This means that graduates who can be financially supported by family take on internships. Those from poor families are less likely to be able to afford the benefit of these employment-enhancing opportunities and go in search of any job. Hence their disadvantage persists.

An institution’s reputation counts. Employers partner with higher education institutions. They contribute industry-relevant input to the curriculum and teaching, and then recruit directly from the institution’s pool of graduates. Employers admitted that they favour graduates from particular institutions while those from other institutions are overlooked.

Equipped for the real world

Deeper analysis of graduates’ employment status showed patterns of employment were divided along lines of race, socio-economic status, educational background and institution. These findings are similar to those of studies on the employability of graduates from public universities. They call into question the value of investing in private higher education, and whether private institutions provide equitable opportunities for all graduates.

The findings confirm that skills, knowledge and a qualification don’t ensure successful employment outcomes for graduates. Higher education cannot overcome structural constraints such as a saturated labour market, weak economy and entrenched social inequality. More of the same from institutions, irrespective of the quality of the education, will likely continue to reproduce unequal outcomes.

The need for private institutions in South Africa to take note of this reality is even more important in the context of COVID-19 and the recent social unrest, and the implications of these macro issues on graduates’ livelihoods and lives.

Policies should recognise that some individuals require different strategies, resources and ways of teaching to achieve the same outcomes as others. Students need to be guided and supported in their choices from the outset, learning how to build networks, gaining real work experience, and preparing for various types of work in a range of contexts.

Graduate preparation must move beyond employers and employment. Institutions ought to focus on enhancing graduates’ abilities to navigate their way in society, to respond to opportunities to work and earn, and to be adaptable so they can thrive in an uncertain world.

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Taxi violence disrupts MEC visit to schools

Western Cape MEC for Education Debbie Schäfer’s visit to three schools in Khayelitsha to assess readiness for the third term as well as engage teaching staff on challenges they experience was disrupted by taxi violence.

Her visit also come after some some learners and teachers were not able to attend on the first day of the term as a result of the violence.

Schäfer said there were some schools that had been affected by the taxi disruptions, which was highly regrettable given the amount of time that has been lost by schools.

She said for principals and teachers have shown dedication to their learners for choosing to work in such a challenging environment.

The MEC visited Joe Slovo High School in Khayalitsha, Injongo Primary School in C Section, and Intshayelelo Primary School in Ilitha Park.

Vanessa le Roux, founder of a group called Parents for Equal Education SA said Schäfer needs to become a more active player in negotiations on the taxi violence discussions.

Le Roux said this must be done for the sake of learners and educators in her province.

“We need to know from the department what their plan is to accommodate learners affected by this taxi violence and that they [those who missed work and tests] will be given another chance to rewrite,” said le Roux.

Adding that the MEC should realise her sector is heavily impacted by the ongoing taxi violence and that she must enter the table of negotiations with the appropriate stakeholders.

ANC provincial spokesperson on education Khalid Sayed said they would join the transport committee meeting on Thursday and demand that all stakeholders find a solution for the sake of learners and teaching staff.

He said it was unacceptable that teaching and learning was taking place in such circumstances.

Sayed said the other challenge faced by schools was that Covid-19 devastation which is very much still present.

“The Western Cape Education Department needs to give parents a greater sense of confidence that schools are ready.

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Few hiccups as Cape learners return to school

SISONKE MLAMLA|

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) said it was pleased with the start of the third school term on Monday, with schools operating as per their temporary revised education plans.

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said all primary school learners (Grades R to 7) and special school learners (Grades R to 12) would return to the daily attendance and traditional timetabling model next Monday.

School management teams and support staff returned last Thursday to prepare for the return of learners and teachers.

Hammond said the WCED was also collating the reports from schools which experienced burglary and vandalism during the school holidays.

READ: Anxiety and fear as learners return to school in Phoenix

“Unfortunately, a number of reports have been received thus far. Further information will be released later this week,” she said.

She said the department was deeply saddened by the report of a death of a security guard allegedly attacked at a metro central school after confronting alleged vandals on Sunday night.

Hammond said the matter was reported to the police and an investigation was under way.

She said schools that were unable to safely return to a traditional timetabling model had to inform the head of department in writing by July 23, of the reasons why.

“Schools that have applied will be notified of the outcome of their application during the course of this week, and that one-metre rule, as contained in the Department of Basic Education Standard Operating Procedures, still remains the main reason for the inability to return safely at full capacity.”

SA Democratic Teachers Union spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said the union was still waiting for reports from the provinces on how the first day of school in the new term was.

Congress of SA Students acting provincial chairperson Zandile Matyeni said they were aware that many learners did not go to school yesterday because of a fear of what might happen to them on the roads or not having transport at all, as many were depending on minibus taxis and scholar transport and non of those were available in some townships.

READ: School dropout rate increased drastically during lockdown

Zero Dropout Campaign programme director Merle Mansfield said it was imperative that schools ramp up their reintegration programmes by tracking absent learners to ascertain why they have not returned to school, and to ensure disengaged learners get the right type of support.

“To get our learners back to class, we need schools and households to work together, each recognising their joint responsibility in supporting learners to stay in school,” said Mansfield.

IOL

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Court orders government to ensure all learners get school meals during the Covid-19 pandemic

The Gauteng High Court Division of South Africa has ordered the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and provincial education departments to develop new plans to feed the over nine million learners that depend on the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).

The order states the plans should be put in place even when schools are closed because of Covid-19 or learners are at home because of rotating timetables. 

This court order was confirmed last week.

Equal Education Communications Officer said this is a victory for learners’ rights to basic nutrition, basic education, equality and dignity.

“We are hopeful that the new plans that the DBE and provincial education departments have been ordered to develop to improve the rollout of the NSNP, can guarantee that it reaches every single learner who qualifies for it,” said Cyster.

This new court order comes after Equal Education (EE) and two Limpopo school governing bodies, represented by SECTION27 and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), went back to court on 29 June.

READ: Over 2 Million Learners Still Not Receiving Food From Basic Education Department, Says Equal Education

The NGOs said the court order was set against the DBE and the MECs of eight provincial education departments for failing to ensure that the NSNP reaches every qualifying learner, despite a judgment handed down last year that demanded that they fulfil this responsibility.

EELC Media and Communications Coordinator Tad Khosa said the they went back to the court to get the education departments to submit progress reports on the rollout of the NSNP.

“This is what like the 2020 court order told them to do but they have failed to do since March 2021.

“We also asked the court  to tell education officials to develop and implement practical and realistic plans for the NSNP which respond to the new realities of schooling during Covid-19, and for monthly reports to be submitted  on the implementation of these plans,” said Khosa. 

He added that the situation had became more and more urgent, with qualifying learners not being able to get meals  because of barriers such as not having scholar transport and poor communication from education officials with school communities.

“The mental, physical and financial impact that food insecurity has on learners and their families is tragic, and unacceptable,” he said. 

READ: 1.5 million learners have not yet received their food from the school mandated programmes

Khosa said in response to their return to court, the legal representatives of the national and provincial education departments proposed that the organisations negotiate a legal settlement. 

“On 20 July, the settlement agreement was made an order of court. This agreement contains clear commitments for the existing systems for the delivery of the NSNP to be revised, and for reasonable timeframes for implementation,” he said.

According to the court order, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and the provincial education departments will formulate and implement revised rollout plans within one month of signing the settlement agreement. They are to ensure that all qualifying learners receive a daily meal under the NSNP, whether at school or at home.

Julia Chaskalson, SECTION27 Communications Officer said the need to feed every qualifying learner during the school calendar year, regardless of whether schools are closed due to Covid-19 or whether learners are at home because of a rotational timetable is critical.

Chaskalson said the DBE and the provincial education departments need to communication plans that ensure learners and schooling stakeholders are aware that meals are being provided.

These plans should also include the manner in which meals will be provided and the availability of scholar transport where applicable.

“These revised plans must be filed with us and with the court within one month.

“After this,  monthly reports must be filed with us and the court describing the implementation of the revised plans explaining if the steps taken have succeeded, as well as what further steps will be taken to ensure that the plans succeed,” said Chaskalson.

The organisations said they welcome the court order and celebrate this victory for over nine million learners and the millions of households whose food security has been compromised during the Covid-19 lockdown and the current unrest within South Africa. 

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Teenagers are acquiring Covid-19 at rates similar to adults

A report by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has shown that unlike the earlier strains of Covid – the SARS Covid-2 and the earlier strain of Covid from 2019, the delta variant, which is more pronounced in the third wave, is affecting children as much as it does adults.

The report found that some groups among children experience higher rates of illness and that among all deaths in individuals aged younger than 19 years, 38.4% were among adolescents aged 15-19 years and 31.8% were aged under one year.

“Children with underlying conditions made up 19.3% of children admitted with Covid-19 but 56% of those who died. The most commonly reported underlying conditions among those admitted were chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, HIV and tuberculosis (active and previous). HIV, diabetes and tuberculosis were common among those who died,” reads the study.

Tendesayi Kufa-Chakezha, a medical doctor by training and PhD Epidemiology from the University of Amsterdam, said since the onset of the third wave to the peak, the fraction of all Covid-19 cases aged 19 years or younger was averaging 14.6% as opposed to around 9% in the first and second waves.

Kufa-Chakezha said half of the cases in South Africa were occurring in older teens and adolescents of ages 15-19, bringing the case rate in this group on par with adults older than 19 years.

READ: Teacher union questions return to school amid strong third wave Covid-19 infections

Cheryl Cohen, co-author of the study and co-head of the Centre for Respiratory Disease and Meningitis, National Institute for Communicable Diseases said the Delta variant could have a greater predilection for children, although there is not yet any conclusive data to support this.

Cohen said South African children are not yet eligible for Covid-19 vaccination and may not be for a while.

According to research, some countries in Europe and North America have opened up vaccination to children between 12 and 16 years even though coverage in this age group is still low.

Cohen said as more children are vaccinated in these countries, more data on side effects and effectiveness will be collected and many lessons will be pulled to inform rollout for children in the country.

“Lessons will be learnt and used in the South African setting,” she said.

Adding that there is a case for the expedited vaccination of children with underlying conditions and older teens and adolescents based on burden of cases and hospitalisations in these two groups respectively.

Cohen said reasons children have not being prioritised at the moment in South Africa could include the lower risk of disease as well as the need to prioritise the elderly.

READ: Schools remain shut in 19 countries including South Africa

“Also, the country still has limited information on the efficacy and safety of the vaccines in children. This, as well as the limited number of vaccines which are licensed for use in children may be other reasons,” she said.

Sibongile Walaza, Medical Epidemiologist at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases and Lecturer at the School of Public Health at Wits University said some groups among children experience higher rates of illness and these reasons bear for more discussion.

“The increased case rates in older teens and adolescents, at rates similar to adults older than 19 years in the third wave, requires monitoring,” said Walaza.

Adding that the higher rates among children could be due to generally increased testing in children in the third wave, “more testing would pick up more cases, including mild or asymptomatic ones,” she said.

“Or increasing vaccination rates among adults, leaving younger individuals contributing more cases,” said Walaza.

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Nzimande places higher education DG under precautionary suspension following forensic investigation into the National Skills Fund

The Director-General (DG) of the Department of Higher Education and Training, Mr Gwebinkundla Qonde has been placed under precautionary suspension by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande disclaimer audit opinion by the Auditor-General of South Africa.

When an auditor issues a disclaimer of opinion report, it means that they are distancing themselves from providing any opinion at all related to the financial statements.

Nzimande said precautionary suspension is placed following forensic investigations into the National Skills fund.

In May, Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) as well as the National Chairperson of the IFP Youth Brigade Mkhuleko Hlengwa, Together with Scopa committee members held a meeting was in the form of hearing to learn the state of affairs of the National Skills Fund (NSF).

According to the minutes of the meeting, the Committee was concerned that in the most recent audit by Auditor General South Africa (AGSA), the Auditor General was said she was unable to express an opinion as to the financial state of the NSF given that many of its invoices were not deemed to be sufficient proof of the expenditure of public funds.

In attendance was the NSF CEO Mvuyisi Macikama, Nzimande and Qonde.

The point of the meeting was to discuss the deteriorating audit outcomes over the past three years and, according to the minutes, the committee “did not find the responses to be satisfactory” and wanted to know who the Minister would hold to account and what he would do and it called for a forensic investigation into the NSF.

Nzimande said  he has been concerned about the deteriorating state of affairs at the NSF for some time now, as evidenced by the progressively worse audit outcomes over the last few years.

“If one only looks at the AG findings in its 2019/20 audit opinion, it is significantly different to the qualified audit opinion of the previous year in that AGSA is saying is that the NSF has failed in its duty to keep records evidencing its skills development expenditure,” said Nzimande.

He added that his main concern is that the auditor general said she cannot express an opinion on the financial statements of the NSF, and therefore not able to give an audit assurance that the NSF skills development expenditure was regular.

“More seriously, AGSA is saying that it cannot say that the money was spent for what it was allocated. This is a very serious finding which he takes seriously,” said the minister.

Qonde is one of the longest-serving DGs in government as he has been in charge of the department after the split of the department of education into two; basic education and higher education, more than 10 years ago.

Nzimande said the DG’s suspension is in terms of the Public Service Act and the SMS handbook, in the wake of a disclaimer audit opinion by the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA).

He said Dr Phil Mjwara was appointed following Qonde’s precautionary suspension and will serve as acting DG until the conclusion of the investigations and any process that may ensue thereafter.

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Rhodes University launches a Covid-19 vaccination site

Rhodes University has joined other universities in the fight against Covid-19 by establishing an on-campus vaccination site situated at its Gavin Relly Postgraduate Village.

At the launch of the vaccination site, Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela said the event marked an important milestone for at the university.

Mabizela said Rhodes University has assisted in the fight against Covid-19 in various ways since the start of the pandemic through various task teams, departments and faculties.

“The vaccination site marks the latest development and aims to increase the availability of the number of sites to vaccinate the adult population by March 2022,” said the vice-chancellor.

The Rhodes University Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs and Chairperson of the Coronavirus Task Team (CVRTT), Dr Mabokang Monnapula-Mapesela, said the vaccination site fits in with the goal of CVRTT.

The task team aims to develop and implement a strategy that mitigates the impact of Covid-19 on our staff and students and to ensure continuity of our academic programme, she said.

According to the framework set out by Higher Health, once all the Rhodes University staff and students eligible for vaccination under the current national rollout plan have been vaccinated, family members and the greater Makhanda community will be vaccinated at the site.

“Our partnering with Sarah Baartman Department of Health in becoming an outreach vaccination site means that we will be able to contribute meaningfully to the vaccination drive of the wider Makhanda community and the Province of the Eastern Cape,” said Mabizela

Adding that due to limited resources, the university aims to vaccinate 80 to 100 people per day in the beginning and hopes to increase this number to 200 per day.

Rhodes University academic and virology specialist Professor Rosie Dorrington was at the site launch to encourage those who may be hesitant about receiving their vaccine.

Dorrington said the vaccine is the only way that people will avoid serious illness and possible hospitalisation from this virus.

“In my opinion, this is the most serious health threat humankind has faced in the last 100 years, and this is the most serious virus that we will face in our lifetime,” said Dorrington.

She said within ten days of the first jab, there is a 90% chance of not ending up in the hospital and being seriously ill from Covid-19. And added that the second dose reminds your body to fight off the virus and gives long-term immunity.

“We are not helpless, nor are we without agency in confronting this menacing coronavirus. There are actions we can take to protect ourselves and those around us,” said Mabizela.

Mabizela said this was a significant contribution in the implementation of the National Strategy of the Department of Health, Department Higher Education, Science and Innovation and Higher Health.

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Teacher union questions return to school amid strong third wave Covid-19 infections

Some teacher unions have said they are unhappy with the re-opening of schools on Monday stating that one in four people are still testing positive for Covid-19.

Educators Union of South Africa (EUSA) National Media Executive Andre de Bruyn said the union finds the opening of schools not only “irresponsible but it seems the department of basic education does not care for the lives of our children and those in our communities”.

De Bruyn added that other teacher unions supporting the reopening of schools are not interested in protecting their members, learners and teachers but would rather hold the interest of the employer.

“Four days before 26 July, South Africa was experiencing a large infection rate of about 16250 new infections and 500 plus deaths in 24 hours,” said de Bruyn.

The union called for a two-week postponement regarding the re-opening of schools “on condition that South Africa brings infections down to under 1000 in 24 hours,” added de Bruyn.

Adding that while government officials continue to work from home and the canvassing on political parties ahead of municipal elections have been postponed, schools are loaded with learners and are told to return to full capacity teaching by August 2.

READ: Schools to return to traditional and daily attendance on 2 August

“There is nothing safe about opening schools and the most vulnerable of the schools are the poorest of the poor. We say no to normal school (sic) in an abnormal society,” he said.

Just on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that schools will re-open on Monday. Ramaphosa said the opening of schools will adhere to health protocols and other measures announced by the Minister of Basic Education.

The president said the latest figures on Covid-19 infections suggest that the country has largely passed the peak of the third wave of infections.

“The measures that we put in place for the past 28 days, alongside the continued adherence of South Africans to basic health precautions, have been effective in reducing the rate of infection.

“The average number of daily new infections over the last week was around 12,000 new cases a day, which represents a 20 per cent drop from the previous week.

“In the last two weeks, the number of new infections in Gauteng – which has been the epicentre of the third wave – has steadily been declining,” said Ramaphosa.

He added that although the infection rate in Gauteng is beginning to fall, daily new infections in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal continue to rise.

There has also been a concerning rise of infections in the Northern Cape after a period of relative stability,” he said.

READ: Schools to open on Monday

In her media briefing on Saturday morning on the state of readiness schools ahead of the third term’s opening, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said more than 1 650 teachers died due to Covid-19 related complications between March 2020 and February this year.

However, Motshekga said this number can be considered a modest figure. Adding that the vaccination programme will help lesson the numbers of hospitalisation and deaths.

Adding that the lack of school attendance will be more devastating for learners who may never be able to catch up unless they return to full-time schooling.

“Every study that has been conducted, shows that a generational catastrophe is unfolding in front of our eyes daily. Something had to be done and still needs to be done to arrest the academic losses,” Motshekga said.

Motshekga said the sector had held countless consultative sessions to deliberate on the reopening of schools.

READ: It will be “devastating” if schools don’t open on 19 July – says Motshekga

She added that based on the information obtained from the provinces, schools are ready to continue to work within the established Covid-19 health protocols, also to start resuming full school attendance in primary schools from August 2.

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Could 3D printed schools be ‘transformative’ for education in Africa?

CHARLES PENSULO|

Gathered under the hot sun, dozens of women danced and sang in jubilation as children from the village of Salima, in central Malawi, started their first day at their new 3D-printed school, which had been built from the ground up in only 15 hours.

Made of concrete placed layer by layer through a computer-controlled nozzle, the school is made up of a single room with rounded corners and is big enough to accommodate 50 students.

Olipa Elisa said her 10-year-old son used to have to hike 5km (3 miles) every day to the nearest school, often arriving late and exhausted.

“I am very excited that we now have a school closer to my home, and my child will not have to take the long journey,” said Elisa, 38. “What we need is more of these learning blocks to accommodate other classes.”

Run by 14Trees, a joint venture between Swiss cement manufacturer LafargeHolcim and British development finance agency CDC Group, the project was faster, cheaper and less energy-intensive than conventional construction, said 14Trees managing director Francois Perrot.

Its success shows how 3D printing could be transformative in Africa, where there is a dire shortage of classroom space, he said.

The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF estimates there is a shortfall of 36,000 primary school classrooms in Malawi alone, a gap that Perrot estimates could be closed in 10 years using 3D-printing technology.

“Based on our calculations, if we rely on conventional methods it would take about 70 years to clear that backlog,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.

READ: Classroom Management: Popular Remote Lesson Monitoring Program Could Be Exploited To Attack Student PCs

Large-scale 3D printing is gaining steam around the world, with some projects producing a home in just 24 hours of printing time for a few thousand dollars.

By the time 14Trees had built the Salima school – which the company says is the first 3D-printed school in Malawi – it had already printed the walls of a prototype house in the capital Lilongwe in just 12 hours, compared to almost four days using conventional methods.

As well as cutting the time it takes to build a structure, 3D printing also reduces the quantity of materials needed and the amount of carbon emissions produced by up to 70% compared to conventional methods, said Perrot.

As an example of the potential cost savings, he pointed to the “ink”, a dry mixture of cement, sand and additives that is mixed with water to form the concrete used to print the walls.

Perrot said that ink could be made in Malawi instead of being imported, as it was for the pilot school project.

“Manufacturing the ink on the ground will dramatically reduce the cost of the building for buyers and create local jobs in manufacturing,” he said.

“We (also) now have an indigenous Malawian team fully trained to operate the printer.”

READ: Classroom Management: Strategies for Teaching Students Online & Face to Face at the Same Time

‘Double disadvantage’

Limbani Nsapato, country director for Edukans, an international development organisation focused on education, said the shortage of classrooms around Africa is an urgent but overlooked issue.

The average ratio of pupils to teachers in Africa is 40-to-1, he said, but with only about 47,000 classrooms for nearly 5,420,000 students, the ratio in Malawi is closer to 115-to-1.

Overcrowded classrooms lead to poor quality of education because teachers find it difficult to engage with every student in a class, he said.

To accommodate their large numbers of students, many schools move classes outside, but when the weather is bad, classes are often cancelled, Nsapato explained.

“Pupils who live far from school have a double disadvantage because apart from getting (stuck) in congested traffic, they also have to face the challenge of covering long distances, which makes them late for class,” he added.

“This makes them arrive at school tired, leading to poor concentration. Such students often drop out or repeat classes because of poor performance.”

Another company trying to solve that problem is Studio Mortazavi, a global architectural firm that has designed a 3D-printed school in Fianarantsoa, a city in southern Madagascar, for the U.S. nonprofit Thinking Huts.

The school, which is due to be built next year, will be made of concrete and locally sourced construction materials and powered by solar energy, said Amir Mortazavi, founder of Studio Mortazavi.

The project will comprise several pods that can serve different functions, including as classrooms, science labs and dance studios.

Maggie Grout, founder and CEO of Thinking Huts, which is also working with 14Trees on the Madagascar school project, said 3D printing should make the project scalable while keeping down carbon emissions.

But first, the organisation has to make sure it can get the printer to the remote rural areas where classrooms are most needed, so it is currently working on streamlining the printing process on a university campus in Madagascar, she said.

“Once we launch the first school and more people know about our vision, we hope to conceptualize a new printer that is specifically created to be more easily transported to the communities we work together with,” Grout said in an email.

Cost

Catherine Sani, head of the Malawi Institute of Architects, worries that 3D printing may not be the cost-saving solution it is being touted as.

“Given our gross need for quick classrooms, this would indeed seem like a good option given the speed in production,” she said.

“However, we also note (that) this method is quick on a single site, but for multiple sites more 3D-printing equipment would be required, thus making this system very high-cost compared to other methods.”

As companies work on making 3D printing more portable and affordable, Tom Bowden, a trustee for Britain-based charity Building Malawi, said the technology holds promise in parts of the world where lack of funding can often stall or kill essential infrastructure projects.

His organisation builds schools, libraries and sports facilities which are operated by Malawian organisations.

Using earth bag construction or bricks and mortar, it costs about $20,000 to build a double classroom, Bowden said.

“The costs are high, we really can’t find cheaper solutions for the concrete floors, iron sheet roof and metal window frames (and) our build process takes about 10 weeks, depending on the specifications,” he said.

Given all of those issues, “3D printing sounds interesting,” he said.

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University of Pretoria athletes represent South Africa at the Tokyo Games

A total of 25 athletes from the University of Pretoria (UP) and six alumni are participating in the Tokyo Olympics from Saturday.

Eight coaches from UP will also be in Tokyo to give advice to the athletes. One UP referee also made part of the team.

Sprinter Akani Simbine and swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker, who are alumni of the university, are tipped to make South African sporting history during the Games. Simbine aims to become the first South African sprinter to win a medal in the 100 metres since Reggie Walker at the 1908 London Olympics.

In the history of South African athletics, only five sprinters have competed in a 100m-final at the Olympics.

Simbine did so in 2016 in Rio. He finished fifth in a time of 9.94s.

Just over two weeks ago, he won the short sprint, running 9.84s in Hungary. Only Trayvon Bromell (USA) has been faster this season, clocking a time of 9.77s in June in Florida.

READ: ‘Siyaya eJapan, Tokyo here we come,’ say UJ sportsmen, women in SA squad

It was during the Monaco Diamond League Meeting, where Simbine finished second, running a time of 9.98s, that he genuinely proved that he could gain a medal in Tokyo.  

UP swimmer, Tatjana Schoenmaker, is also looking to bring home medals.

“I am impressed by Tatjana’s recent performances. I think she has a realistic chance to medal at the Games. The only unanswered question is what the colour of the medal might be. To me, it is exciting that she is also a breaststroker,” said South Africa’s swimming champ Penny Heyns.

Schoenmaker is tipped to medal in the 200m-breaststroke. The Africa record (2:20.17) she set in April is the fastest time this season. She won a silver medal during the 2019 World Championships.

South Africa’s fours rowing crew comprising John Smith, Lawrence Brittain, Kyle Schoonbee and Sandro Torrente, all also UP Rowers, stand a realistic chance of winning medals.

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Sport commentators have said there is also a real chance that South Africa could bring home a medal in the 4x100m-relay.

This is because the team won gold during the World Relay Championships. Tuks sprinters Simbine, Gift Leotlela and Clarence Munyai, comprised ¾ of the team.

UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe wished the team well at the Olympics.

“As Captain of the UP ship, I am extremely proud of the athletes, coaches, current students and alumni who will fly the South African flag in Tokyo. The Olympic Games are the ultimate showcase of sporting excellence and for UP to be well represented in this manner highlights our sporting excellence and strides taken in edging closer to being a global sporting powerhouse,” said Kupe.

He reminded the Olympians that winning and losing also go hand-in-hand.

“If you lose, don’t give up. Instead, it is essential to reflect on what went wrong. Learn from your mistakes. And when you win, try and understand what made you a winner. Athletes should also remember that you are only as good as your last contest. The challenge is always to be better tomorrow than you were today,” he said.

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UP Sports Director and acting CEO of the High Performance Centre Steven Ball said, “We are extremely proud of the resilience shown by our #StripeGeneration.

“Our athletes have risen to the occasion and shown excellence in qualifying to represent our country at the Olympic Games. In a time when the nation can feel quite hopeless, we truly believe that these Olympians can provide hope. We know that they will do everything in their power to represent themselves, their families, the university and  especially our country to the best of their abilities.”

He asked the country to support the university’s athletes and coaches and more importantly the entire Team SA.

“They deserve our support as we look to each of them for inspiration, as beacons of hope to us all, that through hard work, dedication, resilience and unwavering focus, we can all achieve something great,” said Ball.