South Africa’s education sector is an enigma. The country spends a larger share of its Gross Domestic Product on education, more than any other country in Africa, according to UNICEF, but despite such heavy investment in the sector, glaring inequalities and challenges still persist, which affect the quality of education.

The recent revelation by news reports of what could be the country’s most overcrowded school highlights these challenges. According to Sunday Times, 205 pupils in Grade 11E at St Patrick’s Senior Secondary School in Libode, Eastern Cape, cram into a single classroom.

The conditions are no better for other grades, considering that there are just 14 classrooms for the more than 1630 pupils and Grade 8 and 9 pupils reportedly share a single classroom.

A classroom known as The Shack at St Patrick's Senior Secondary Photo: Rogan Ward/Sunday Times

A classroom known as The Shack at St Patrick’s Senior Secondary Photo: Rogan Ward/Sunday Times

The country’s education sector has recorded significant gains such as high levels of school attendance and gender parity in both primary and secondary levels.

Although the government has abolished school fees in the poorest primary schools across the country, facilities at some rural schools are in deplorable condition and a host of other challenges remain.

Cases of challenges recorded in past few years

  • Mal-administration/mismanagement of funds: Limpopo textbook scandal in 2012.
  • KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape: Currently face a shortage of teachers and infrastructure backlogs.
  • Leaked exam papers: Affected 16,000 matric pupils in Limpopo last year.
  • Teachers’ strikes countrywide: 2013 and 2014.

Source: Timeslive/Sunday Times